Monday, 13 June 2011

Spring Awakening: UK Tour (spoilers)

So what to do on a Friday night in South East London? A few hundred years ago, I worked in Greenwich Theatre to subsidise my degree in debt, well English Literature really before becoming a grown up and teaching English. It was kind of odd going back there after all this time, especially as my stand out memory was the rather 'hands on'  manager, urgh, hopefully he was sentenced to compulsory removal of his hands for crimes against young bar staff.

Anyway, for local theatres, it's not a bad evening out, certainly not West End and the bar area does resemble a cellar (fine in a dimly lit nightclub but I did expect it to be a bit plusher, let's blame Tory cuts to Art funding) but an intimate atmosphere with friendly house staff.  I didn't really research the play that much, it was all a bit last minute and I may have thought twice if I'd know it was a rock musical (eeek) however, it was good and it was packed, with young people no less.

Melchior and Wendla

On thinking I was going to have a more highbrow evening than of late, there was loud music, masturbation, bare breasts, foul language and suicide, I may as well have been at festival!

So specifics, 'Spring Awakening' is a play about the coming of age, a revival of the hit Broadway musical from the company 'Sell a Door'. It is inspired by the German playwright Frank Wedekind's scandalous piece from 1891 about a group of teens bought up by extremely prudish parents. Yes 'Footloose' I hear you say, it was rather, but nowhere near as naff, it even had a touch of  'Dead Poet's Society' in it for me, which unfortunately meant in the interval I predicted the young wildheart's demise by shot gun after a domineering father's bark of 'failure'.

US Broadway poster

My only criticism is that the words were sometimes hard to decipher in the female lead's singing and due to late booking, a pair of opera glasses would have been useful (and not pretentious at all of course). I can't decide if the semi nudity of Wendla was gratuitous, maybe a little? The male lead Melchior, in contrast, had sex without even undoing his trousers. A love scene later between two men was sort of awkwardly directed and added to this inequality.

Having said that, some great acting, wonderfully directed overall, I  loved the young people depicted as headstones towards the end that gave it all a supernatural and tragic feel.  A true representation of the pitfalls of not being open with your children about sexuality and the urges that suddenly hit you and confuse, the dark side of  'Inbetweeners'. The original play of 1891 must have been very forward thinking and Wedekind's production was unsurprisingly highly censored back then. A definite tale of  the hazards of repression and ignorance backed by some erm? prog rock?

Cast featured Jonathon Elo ( Oh haha ELO, yes it was a bit) as Melchior and Victoria Serra  as Wendla with support from a brilliant young cast, Jill Armour, James Benn, Dan Buckley, Billy Cullum, Natalie Green, Jess Mack, Anna McGarahan, Zachary Morris, Dale Page and Jane Stanton. On Broadway, the musical won 8 Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Direction, Best Book and Best Score. More tours to come I'm sure.

I will definitely return to Greenwich Theatre in future, just call me luvvie. There's also a nice, friendly gay bar next door if you're a girl and want a drink after the play without getting any unwanted attention.

Sell a Door's Spring Awakening Tour INFO
Greenwich Theatre

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