LUCY SILVER reviews UCLU Musical Theatre Society’s ‘Spring Awakening’.
In modern terms, ‘Spring Awakening’ is a hybrid cross between Skins and Glee. The musical addresses difficult subject matter: sexual abuse, issues of consent and the pressures of academia. When intermixed with an eclectic collection of soulful ballads and angsty anthems, it is sure to stir your inner teenager. Although originally based on a play set in 19th century Germany, the themes of academic stress, rebellion, sexual exploration (and repression) make ‘Spring Awakening’ a great choice for a university production.
Director, Josie Charles, and producer, Luke Conor Baker, have created a warm and entertaining show. Costume designer Madeleine Faith Edis’ decision to dress the cast in various degrees of school uniform worked well against the minimalist scenery. The actors appeared both youthful and out-of-place in their clothing as though they had outgrown them, reflecting the stereotypical awkwardness of adolescence.
The cast was cohesive and energetic, and was most impressive when they took to the front of the stage in numbers such as ‘The Song of Purple Summer’ and ‘Totally Fucked’. Another standout group performance was the highly entertaining rendition of ’The Bitch of Living’, choreographed to perfectly encapsulate the trope of sexually frustrated teenage boys.
The relationships between the leads of Melchior, Wendla and Moritz were delicately explored and portrayed, whilst the characterisation of the smaller characters, such as Hanschen, Ernst and Otto, was excellently conveyed. By selecting the same two actors (Sam Thomas and Lola Szczotarska) to play all of the adult parts throughout the performance, a divide between the generations was firmly established: the driving force of the plot.
The production successfully negotiated the comedic and the tragic elements of the musical. An emotionally loaded ‘The Dark I know Well’ was powerfully performed by Fiona Evans in the role of Marta and Julia Ravey as Ise. Another particularly poignant moment was the father’s reaction to his son Moritz’ suicide. Vincenzo Monachello’s portrayal of the endearing but tormented Moritz was well executed throughout, as was the dynamic created between Moritz and Melchior, played by Matt Wedlich.
The infamous ‘Spring Awakening’ sex scene between Melchior and Wendla was sensitively, yet intensely, depicted. Although the old mantra ‘do-not-have-sex-or-you-will-get-pregnant-and-die’ may seem dated to a modern audience, the lack of sex education and how it affects issues of consent is still very relevant to contemporary audiences. Wendla’s character development, from the loss of her virginity and her confrontation with her mother, reveals how sexual experiences have a formative effect on our character.
The production was lively, skilfully performed and very entertaining.
Images credited to George Washbourn.