Spring Awakening

Aug 27 2015 | By More

★★★☆☆   Stirring

The Famous Spiegeltent (Venue 87): Mon 24 – Mon 31 August 2015

Captivate Theatre’s Spring Awakening is a committed and occasionally thrilling production that does not quite have the conviction to carry everything off.

Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater’s rock musical adaptation of Frank Wedekind’s play about teenage sexuality and torment is something of a cult, and presents real challenges. The young cast certainly show bravery in the depiction of suicide and sexual abuse, not to mention the onstage nudity, sex and masturbation. What is not certain is that the production as a whole is equally brave.

Spring Awakening. Photo Captivate Drama

Spring Awakening. Photo Captivate Drama

James Leggat’s Melchior is a suitably confused yet dashing anti-hero, who has a real chemistry with Marianne Kelly’s naïve Wendla. Malcolm Conway’s troubled Moritz is another appealing performance. In each case, they are stronger in singing than in acting, although the occasionally lumpen score does not leave too much room for finesse. The tendency to start at maximum power, then attempt to go up, needs to be curbed.

In truth, there is not enough light and shade in evidence in the whole production, so the emotional range fluctuates between flatness and strident hysteria. This means that the more complex emotional dilemmas do not ring true; the motivations that might lead a teenager to suicide seem insufficiently covered.

The most stirring moments come when the full chorus is used. Stephanie Bell, Hannah Kershaw, an intriguing Rachel Crone and the impressive Meg Laird-Drummond provide strong female support. Tom Mullins, Max Reid, Mark Smith and Scott Cruickshank are endlessly energetic as the other boys.

effectively staged

While the big production numbers are elegantly and effectively staged, the more telling emotional moments are not quite weighty enough. Symptomatic of this is the way that the two male characters discovering their feelings for each other are depicted as camper than Christmas. While Mullins and Smith do their best, and their kiss is touchingly done, it is an illustration of how the production shies away from genuine emotion, instead relying on simulacra that prevent the audience engaging as fully as they might.

Director Sally Lyall does, however, make excellent use of the acting space in the Spiegeltent, with the light filtering spookily through the windows an added bonus. Lyall also, along with Iain McFadden, plays all of the adult roles with verve and versatility. Tommie Travers leads an enthusiastic band who never falter in their commitment.

There can be no denying the craft and dedication of all concerned, but at the moment this is less than the sum of its parts. A little more subtlety and shade would work wonders.

Running time 1 hour 55 minutes including interval
The Famous Spiegeltent (Venue 87), St Andrew Square, EH2 1AF
Monday 24 – Monday 31 August 2015
Daily at 5.00 pm
Book tickets on the EdFringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/spring-awakening

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