Spring Awakening: A Review

by Sam Hardaker

As a fan of the show, with the Broadway album etched permanently into my brain, it is difficult to decide to see another version of something I love, knowing it will be different. But boy am I glad to have witnessed Pelican Productions’ Spring Awakening this Hilary term.

From the first note of the song ‘Mama Who Bore Me’, I knew this would be an authentic yet original take on the Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik musical. It is one of the most brilliant openings to a musical, immediately engaging and revealing, yet also an accessible and understandable introduction to some of the major themes of the show and especially the main motivations and characteristics of one of the main characters, Wendla (Am Wyckoff). In fact, both her voice and that of Melchior (Sam Harper) impressed and never wavered. The live band tucked away into the nooks at the back of the stage were brilliant, especially the guitar, which was both iconic and haunting. For those who are not familiar with the music, the score does not follow the classic musical pattern of following what is happening in the scene then simply in song; the lyrics are instead much more coded, symbolic, and able to be interpreted differently. In my view, this can be much more effective, and this production certainly dove into the ambiguity, the poetry of the story, and every song was felt deeply by both the cast and audience, I’m sure.

Now, of course a show with some difficult subject material set in the late 1800s will be a tad bizarre. But I found that it was ‘weird’ in the best way. While Spring Awakening deals with the comedic side of puberty and adolescent discovery, the cast and crew worked hard to treat heavy topics such as suicide and sexual assault with care and did so incredibly effectively. By having lighter moments, sections of humour, the show allowed the darker parts, the more emotional side of the story, to be even more impactful and beautiful.

Overall, although a distinctly depressing and relatively morose story, the production took the darkness in its stride, finding humour where it was needed, but returning to a serious tone when it mattered. Not only that, all the moments of intimacy were equally balanced, with a masturbating teen on stage being a tad awkward and jarring but certainly hilarious, while Melchior and Wendla’s interactions were sweet and full of longing.

However, best of all, and rather selfishly, I finally got to witness Spring Awakening as it should be, on stage, with young people expressing the trials and tribulations of being young (in Victorian Germany, mind you), and I adored every moment. Produced by Connor Allan and co-directed by Rei Ota and Jess Steadman, Pelican Productions pulled off a show overflowing with both teenage angst and hope, confusion and understanding, growing and rebelling. Despite, or perhaps because of, the melancholy themes, the show was full of life, a wholly enjoyable, delightful, and satisfying evening.

Spring Awakening ran from Wednesday 22 February to Sunday 26 February at the Al Jaber Auditorium, Corpus Christi College.

The Poor Print

Established in 2013, The Poor Print is the student-run newspaper of Oriel College, Oxford, written by members of the JCR, MCR, SCR and staff. New issues are published fortnightly during term. Our current Executive Editors are Siddiq Islam and Jerric Chong.

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