Saturday, January 24, 2009

Spring Awakening @ Lyric Hammersmith, London - review

Went to see Spring Awakening. 2nd preview, and it looked pretty sharp to me. Let's keep this review simple:

- Cast: all good from everyone. Good acting, good voices, good presence. Many are doing their professional debut in this production. Very fresh.
- Staging: very cool. Lighbulbs hang from the ceiling, neons in the theatre, back wall covered in paintings, images, a blackboard listing the songs, more neons and lights, some objects related to the story etc... There are seats for the audience on either side of the stage, where the actors also sit sometimes, and a small band at the back (piano, guitar, fiddle, drums and more). Actors help with the running of the show, moving microphones about, taking the lights down etc, giving a special feel to the proceedings.
- Songs: pretty good. I wasn't sure about the idea of pop-rock tunes for something based on a 1900s play, but it did work. Being a teenager then was worse than it is now, but the angst and the fear and the weight of adults' expectations on your shoulder remain. Mama and Spring/Summer are particular favourites of mine.
- I enjoyed the story and realised it was darker than I expected. Abuse, violence, suicide, teenage pregnancy... it's all in there.
- The one thing I didn't like was the way the gay relationship between two of the boys was treated as comic relief for act 2. I doubt that at a such a religious time, in small-town Germany, two boys realising they loved each other would be so comfortable with it. Why did the audience laugh? Embarassment, probably (as in many other moments of the piece) and because one of the boys suddenly developed cliched manoeurisms (nowhere to be seen beforehand) and we had jokes about licking the cream. Why present it that way? Their future is probably no brighter than that of the 3 main characters...
Anyway this is a small thing...

Overall, this is a very good show and production. The message I got from this was that thank god I am living in 2009, in a (relatively) tolerant society that allows you to be who you want to be and where social norms are not as suffocating as in the past. However, growing up remains tough!

Tickets here.

Review update (4 Feb)
The Guardian - 3 stars
The Telegraph - 5 stars
The Times - 5 stars
The Stage - positive review