Review: Spring Awakening

Alex Sorgo 21 February 2018

Spring Awakening is the story of a group of adolescents in 19th century Germany grappling with issues of sexuality, suicide and teenage pregnancy, with no help at all from their more conservative parents. An odd blend of entertainment and pathos, this show has the capacity to both amaze audiences in its bigger moments and move them in its quieter ones.

The show (directed by Martha O’Neill) opens with Wendla (Lucia Azzi), a young girl asking her mother (Issy Snape) about where babies come from. Not wanting her daughter to know about sex yet, her mother gives her a vague and ultimately useless answer, which acts as a catalyst for much of the tragic action in the play. Later she meets Melchior (Jonathan Iceton) a charming and intelligent young man who takes advantage of her innocence. Melchior does his best to help his friend Moritz (Alex Hancock) both with schoolwork and sex but cannot prevent his expulsion and subsequent depression. Punctuating these two main plotlines, the ensemble cast explore their own stories of homosexuality and child abuse.

This is a wonderfully put together show and, but for some easily correctable errors, has great potential to impress audiences. Simple but effective would be a good (albeit slightly cliched) way to describe the technical aspects of the show. The stage is kept fairly bare, but the use of flowers and fairy lights makes for a set with a nice feel of innocent wonder. Having a raised walkway at the back used by the adult characters, and placing the band in between them and the children is an excellent way to highlight the sheer lack of communication or feeling between parent and child, one of the shows major themes.

The band (led by Sam Kirby) were generally very good, and pleasingly well-balanced, the guitar and drums in particular well-integrated into the overall sound. They worked well-together with the singers as well, but on occasions the female voices felt a little bit drowned out. In turn, during group numbers, the female voices tended to overpower the male, leading to a slightly unbalanced sound. That said, the harmonising was generally superb and led to some very touching moments in numbers like ‘The Dark I Know Well’ or ‘Those You’ve Known.’

The choreography (Katya Duncan and Katie-Lou White) was a little bit of a mixed bag. Numbers like ‘Touch me’ and ‘Totally F***ed’ were brilliantly done, well-thought out and ably performed. In other numbers there appeared to be a couple of issues with execution, synchronicity being only slightly off, but nonetheless very distracting.

There’s little else to say criticise the show for, mostly because, other than these minor nitpicks, it is a really enjoyable show. The performances of the cast, from Issy Snape and Nathan Leach’s comical caricatures of adulthood, to the complexity of Iceton’s Melchior to Azzi’s Wendla bursting with pathos, are all very well done, handling tricky material with great ability and a touch of class. Special mention to Lewis Nicholson, whose confidence and overtness as Hanschen stole the show.

Despite minor flaws in performance, Spring Awakening at the Robinson Auditorium is a brilliant achievement, an enjoyable spectacle, and definitely not one to miss.