Photos by Carrie Morrison

Review: Spring Awakening

This production executes a fresh take on the coming of age, harrowing tale with dynamic acting and minimal scenery.

This week, Drama Soc offers a sinister and oddly touching production of Frank Wedekind’s Spring Awakening, directed by Buffy Wattling and produced by Sophie Paterson. Written in 1891 and first performed in 1906, the play was originally staged by Max Reinhardt as a critique of the sexually oppressive culture of nineteenth-century Germany.

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Photos by Carrie Morrison

This production executes a fresh take on the coming of age, harrowing tale with dynamic acting and minimal scenery. Golfo Migos’ character, Wendla, is engaging from the outset; innocent, mischievous and played with a real vivacity that electrifies the scenes of intimacy and violence shared with David Bolwell as Melchoir. Bolwell’s Melchoir is open-minded, interrogative and independent, traits which set him apart from the other boys and cause him to be a rebel against the oppressive authority of religion and paternalism in the play. This is acutely reflected in the choice of blocking and lighting for the scene in the Headmaster’s study, creating a court-like atmosphere in which Rory Oliver excels as the voice of a pompous interlocutor. James McIllwrath, as the Masked Man, provided music throughout scene transitions and his presence in the thrust style seating added a Brechtian quality that was particularly amusing in the second act. This technique intensifies an already present sense of voyeurism, uneasily aligning the microcosm of the play with universal themes.

Bolwell’s Melchoir is open-minded, interrogative and independent, traits which set him apart from the other boys and cause him to be a rebel against the oppressive authority of religion and paternalism in the play

At times the emphasis on lack of scenery, save for an ominous tombstone and some twigs, made the use of props feel a little obsolete, and made set changes clumsy. The importance of the forest in the play lent itself to the more natural and minimal set that was perpetuated through the interesting choice of lighting by Julia Levai.

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Photos by Carrie Morrison

Jamie Bowman’s Moritz is fascinating to watch, as the physicality of an awkward and inherently nervous adolescent manifests itself in meticulous attention to twitches and effeminate gestures. This provides an astute counterpoint to the gang mentality of the group of boys, for whom competition and pubescence heighten the cruelty and blasé nature with which they treat each other, notably at Moritz’s funeral. The naivety of the girls, played by Golfo Migos, Amelia Hamilton and Elizabeth Cooke communicated fundamental themes concerned with parental negligence and sexuality, which uncomfortably appropriated blame for the suicide, abortion and sexual oppression endured by the characters. Golden moments of comedy lighten the prevailing sombre mood of the play, including Elizabeth Cooke’s memorable cameo as Scoot.

The use of monologues initially added intrigue and poetically dealt with some of the more uneasy and visceral scenes of the play, such as that performed by Joseph Hayes. However the second act felt considerably more static than the first due to the lack of movement, and as such the ending felt a little abrupt. At times certain dialogues needed a change of pace to hold the audience’s full attention. A few nerves from an otherwise stellar cast added a touch of rigidity to what was overall a wonderful opening night, no doubt these will dissipate and the show will only get better. An uneasy but utterly compelling experience, Spring Awakening is one to see this term.

Spring Awakening is showing from Thursday 11th-Sunday 14th February at the Drama Barn. Tickets can be purchased on the YUSU website or at the door.

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