Spring Awakening

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A powerfully hypnotic and heartbreaking production of the musical based on Frank Wedekind’s polemic cult classic.

Image of Spring Awakening

@ King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 20 Jun, 2015

When describing Spring Awakening to people who haven’t seen or heard of it, listing the various hard-hitting themes explored can be somewhat uncomfortable. With underage sex, child abuse, teenage pregnancy, and suicide being just a few, its no wonder that some find it hard to believe that it can be described as both a hauntingly beautiful, and at times hilarious, musical. However, it is exactly that; MGA Academy‘s production is not only a showcase of the immense talent that the academy possesses, but also the hypnotic beauty of the music and lyrics that resonate with you long after the curtain has fallen.

While at first the production feels rather too similar to the original Broadway show, which director Andrew Gowland admits to having seen, it’s the actors who make it their own. There is a great deal of self-awareness and sensitivity exhibited by the young cast, who are perfectly suited to the themes of the play, picking up on elements that are often missed by casts of an older age. Having said that, the fantastic male lead, Thomas Doherty, and his supporting men are much more in sync and self-aware of the adolescents they are playing than the women are. At times, the girls come across as childish, rather than as the repressed young women they represent, innocent and knowing. Nevertheless, their performance of The Dark I Know Well, combined with a mesmerising yet equally disturbing dance duet, highlights how the cast are fully conscious of the mature and dark themes they are handling.

Gowland has taken on a momentous task by choosing to tackle such a polemic and emotion-ridden show. This professional young cast is a powder-keg of energy and talent. The singing is stunning, with the score’s hauntingly beautiful harmonies performed in a way that is conscious of the words being sung. The slick group choreography in songs like Bitch of Living and Totally F***ed is electric, its animation only further showing how capable a younger cast is of performing this cult classic. At times, the weakest element is the acting, though the fault lies in the unnecessary, and occasionally inconsistent, American accents, since the play is set in Germany. That said, the eerily silent and heart-breaking final scenes of the show demonstrate that these students are fully capable actors, and the raw emotions and material inevitably tug at your heartstrings. This production is exceptional in almost every aspect, and demonstrates how and why Spring Awakening should be performed.