Spring Awakening – Smock Alley – Review


Spring Awakening – Smock Alley – 28th July-1st August at 7.30pm in The Main Space

Spring Awakening is the story of a group of teenage school children set in late 19th century Germany. They are just discovering their sexual desires in a society that is determined to keep them under lock and key. The opening scene shows a young girl asking her mother how her sister became pregnant. In an age before books on the topic were widely available, many young people had no idea of the rudimentary facts of life. If this story sounds somewhat slow and reminiscent of a Michael Haneke film, the other facts about this piece by Steven Sater is that it’s a musical and set to an indie rock score!

It is based on German playwright Frank Wedekind’s 1891 play of the same name. Wedekind’s play was a hugely controversial on its release and was often banned or censored, as it dealt with rape, child abuse, homosexuality, suicide and abortion. It is not an obvious choice for the transition to a musical, but they have used the difficult subject matter of the original to make something new, vibrant and very entertaining! Writer Steven Sater won two Tony awards for the work in 2007. It is one of an unusual bred of new musicals that aim to turn the art form on its head and experiment with the usual ideals. It is no surprise that this is a production by Ill-Advised theatre company, who previously performed [title of show] in the New Theatre last year, another meta-musical. Where this production differs from their previous work is the size and scale of the show, with 17 cast members and 6 musicians working on this production.

There is little or no attempt to create the atmosphere of Germany in the 19th century other than in dress and character names. In truth, it would have made as much sense in America in the 1950s. The aim was to have a world where the characters are deeply repressed and have the harsh rules of a restrictive society to fight against. While the original play by Wedekind caused uproar due to its shocking themes, this is an up beat production with many laughs.

With songs titles such as ‘Totally Fucked’ and ‘The Bitch of Living’ you know you’re in for an unusual night at the theatre. This is a fresh and vibrant piece and while not everything works in this production, it dares to take risks which is always a positive. The cast are very young with many listed as still at college in the programme notes, but many have impressive voices with Megan McDonnell as Wendla particularly catching the eye. If you’re looking for something different to see this weekend, this is an enjoyable trip to a far away land!

Writer: Steven Sater
Composer: Duncan Sheik

Director : James O’Connor
Choreographer: Lesley Moore
Lighting Designer: Caoimhe Ní Fhaoláin
Set & Costume Design: Fiona Patten
Music Director: Sinéad Diskin

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