Never one to shy away from a controversial musical, Burton & Garran Hall’s production of ‘Spring Awakening’ this year explores the shaded corners of the naïve mind of adolescence. Through the eyes of its vibrant but melancholic teenage characters, ‘Spring Awakening’ takes on immensely confrontational issues and brings to life the confusion and desperation of youth.
The central trio – Melchior, the fast-talking rebel (Joshua Doak), his sweet-natured and devastatingly innocent love interest Wendla (Georgie Hicks), and the skittish and soulful Moritz (Eamonn McNamara), are ably embodied by their actors. McNamara as Moritz has a particularly stand out voice, shining through in songs such as ‘And Then There Were None’, and Melchior and Wendla’s sweet sexual adventure, with ultimately tragic consequences, truly leads the audience on an emotional journey.
The ensemble were not always as strong as the leads, but were effective in conveying the clouded and conflicting emotions of the tumultuous transition from childhood to adulthood. Songs such as ‘My Junk’ and ‘Totally Fucked’ brought the cast together in joyfully anguished performances. Fergus Macleod as Hanschen and Jordie Pettit as Ernst were a particular audience favourite in their amusing homoerotic duet in the second act, though at times many of the actors in adult roles did not succeed at being threatening enough to portray an overwhelmingly hypocritical paternalistic attitude.
Director Laura Godrey said they dealt with the confrontational issues through a no tolerance policy about any of the content – “We’ve all been able to talk about the issues in a positive and encouraging way”, with producer Max Messenger also adding that they made a concerted effort to deal with sensitive scenes in a realistic and natural way, as opposed to imbuing them with ‘shock value’. This came through in the introduction of a dance chorus to take the spotlight of some of the more sensitive issues.
Technical issues marred the performance, however, with lighting appearing to be a significant problem. At times, featured singers would be left completely in the dark, and flashing lights were often more distracting than enhancing. Sound also appeared to be an issue, with the levels of the orchestra and the microphones not entirely balanced, which took away from the performance.
The emotional journey that the characters go through as youths awakening to the possibilities of life, whether good or bad, comes through as the most poignant statement from the musical, and audible distress from the audience showed a true attachment to the characters and their often easily avoidable tragedies.
When asked what the best part about the show was, Godrey expressed that it was easily “seeing the cast grow – it’s corny, but I feel like this has been everyone’s ‘Spring Awakening’.”
‘Spring Awakening’ runs at the Papermoon Theatre at the ANU Arts Centre until August 1st, and more information about tickets can be found at http://www.springawakening.getqpay.com/