BWW Review: SPRING AWAKENING, Stockwell Playhouse
Who better to perform a musical about a group of angsty German teens than an actual group of young people? Spring Awakening joins Bring It On and Goodnight Mr Tom as the British Theatre Academy's third show of the summer. This rock musical is beautifully designed and staged and features many talented young performers.
Spring Awakening won eight Tony Awards and four Olivier Awards with its original productions and garnered lots of press with its 2015 Deaf West Theatre revival. It follows a group of students in 19th century Germany struggling to deal with their blossoming sexuality and problems at school and at home. It's based on a German play of the same name written in 1891 and features music by Duncan Sheik and a book and lyrics by Steven Sater.
This production at the Stockwell Playhouse is impressive in scope considering its very limited run. Under Dean Johnson's direction, the actors portray teens dealing with everything from wet dreams to domestic abuse. Max Harwood and Charlotte Coe lead the cast as Melchior and Wendla and both have lovely voices, well suited to the music.
James Knudsen as Moritz is easily one of the highlights of the show as he has incredible vocals and a wonderful nervous energy well suited to the character who is struggling with his nascent sexuality. Ginnie Thompson is great as Ilse and lends a somewhat ethereal quality to the character that made me question whether she was real or not.
The entire ensemble is very strong, particularly in their movement. Jamie Heward stands out in his nuanced performance as Hanschen, a young gay teen; I could easily imagine him becoming a proper name in the West End. While Dafydd Lansley is good as Georg, one of the school boys, he is splendid in his scene as the wild and dangerous Rupert in the reform school. I was also impressed with Sadie Hurst, Elizabeth Rose, and Merel van't Hooft as Martha, Anna, and Thea.
Spring Awakening boasts several well-known songs like "Mama Who Bore Me". "The Dark I Know Well" and "Totally F*cked" are the two highlights of this production, in my opinion, as the vocals and the staging for both are spectacular. The set for the production, designed by PJ McEvoy, is modest, but appropriately gritty and near industrial.
The choreography by Matt Nicholson truly makes the show a great experience. It is well suited to the rock music and dark subject matter. The costuming is simple, but very effective and the matching outfits bring home the idea that the adults of the society are trying to make each of the children fit into the same mould.
Spring Awakening might not be everyone's cup of tea as the subject matter is rather risqué and deals with some dark subjects. However, there's something about seeing people of the actual age that they're portraying that makes this BTA show great. If you love Spring Awakening or are curious about it, then this production is well worth seeing.
Photo Credit: Eliza Wilmot