Spring Awakening

Jun 19 2015 | By More

★★★★★    Cult classic

Kings Theatre, Edinburgh Thurs 18 – Sat 20 June 2015

Based on Frank Wedekind’s 1891 German play about repressed sexuality and its manifestations, Spring Awakening gets a a surprisingly refreshing production from MGA that mixes 19th century Germany with rock music. And does so exceptionally well.

In fact, Director Andrew Gowland’s reimagining of the 2006 Broadway musical is a gutsy masterpiece that feels like a true cult classic. The marrying of repression with rock music as its release is a powerful image and an enjoyable one to boot.

Spring Awakening by MGA. Photo: Richard Findlay

Spring Awakening by MGA. Photo: Richard Findlay

The story follows a group of teenagers as they come of age. With some complex themes including rape, domestic abuse, suicide and homosexuality, this production is told with a magical sense of sarcasm and sexual innuendo, not to mention archetypal fairytale villains.

The direction is understated; poignant in its simplicity. There is no overblown sentiment or dramatisation and nothing superfluous. Even scene changes are signalled by simple yet vivid lighting contrasts, designed by Gerron Stewart. The scenes in this production seem to speak for themselves – they don’t need any embellishment – especially the particularly moving yet subdued suicide scene.

The MGA Academy of Performing Arts’ musical feels raw – it’s contemporary and it’s energetic yet it still holds onto Wedekind’s original shock and horror. This is expertly communicated through Jerome Knols’ choreography, which convincingly portrays highly stylised sexuality and and stunningly intense and powerful energy throughout. In particular the choreography in songs My Junk and Totally F**ked is powerful and completely mesmerising.

indescribably powerful

But ultimately, the success of this production is down to the cast. These musical theatre students are quite possibly the most talented group you’ll ever come across. From Ernst’s (Jack Douglas) naive innocence to Hanschen’s (Jack Nixon) beguiling charm, every growing pain or adolescent trauma is delivered in one form or another.

The performances aren’t polished, but they’re true – they feel as raw as the trials and tribulations of growing up inevitably are. Something indescribably powerful has been captured here.

Elly Jay and Thomas Docherty. Photo: Richard Findlay

Elly Jay and Thomas Docherty. Photo: Richard Findlay

Main characters Melchior, played by Thomas Docherty, and Wendla, by Elly Jay, have a chemistry that bounces around the stage, even when they aren’t together. Docherty’s magnetism is almost hypnotic as he moves and dances around the simple set and Jay is simply beautiful as the sexually ignorant teenager.

Moritz too, played by Tom Mullins is wonderfully executed. His journey from innocent incredulity, to shame, self awareness and ultimately sadness and pain is captivating. Accompanied by Ilse (Laurie Coburn) as the enigmatic and striking muse trying to pull him back from the brink. And it would be remiss not to mention Kieran Cooper as the overwhelmingly lucky piano-playing Georg.

This is a very contemporary production of Spring Awakening, exploring the confusions of adolescence and the chaos that can unfold as desire is repressed and unleashed. Its delivery is mature and reflective, combining raw emotion and simplicity.

While there may be a few blemishes – the breaking of a sore throat here and a slightly rushed line there – these are few and far between. Instead of detracting from the piece, they strangely intensify it.

This production is, quite simply, not to be missed.

Running time: 2 hours (including interval)
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ
Thursday 18 – Saturday 20 June 2015,
Evenings 7.30pm, Saturday matinee: 2.30pm
(adult material, recommended: ages 15+)

Full cast of Spring Awakening by MGA. Photo Richard Findlay

Full cast of Spring Awakening by MGA. Photo Richard Findlay


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  1. Spring Awakening Auditions : All Edinburgh Theatre.com | Dec 28 2017