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Spring Awakening, Brockley Jack Studio Theatre

Frank Wedekind, translated by F.J. Ziegler
Directed by John Fricker

Pros: A well-designed and well-performed production of a show with a strong message.

Cons: A little long at 2 hours 30 mins.

Our Verdict: A great show from a young theatre company; we hope to see more of them soon.

Courtesy of OutFox Productions

Spring Awakening – a title which many will remember from the short-lived, but ultimately well-received Rock Musical which swooped into the West End in 2009. It can be difficult to reconcile this title with the play the musical was based on, and in this sense, Spring Awakening is a bold choice for OutFox Productions to stage as their debut show. Fortunately it pays off with the delivery of a considered, well-rehearsed and thought-provoking rendition of the controversial play.

The play itself was written in 1892 by a young man named Frank Wedekind. It was so controversial that it did not get performed for 14 years, and was not staged in its entirety in the UK until the 1970s. The reason for this is that it deals with touchy subject matter: teen sexuality (and the repression of it) is the central theme, but also the subjects of homosexuality, physical and mental abuse, rape, abortion and suicide play large roles. The message that Wedekind pushes is that the heavy taboo around sex does far more harm than good – and as you can imagine this did not go down well in late 19th Century Germany. Yet it is chilling just how resonant this play is in the modern day – this script, and indeed OutFox’s production, has a very important message to share.

The company do remarkably well to make this difficult play digestible. A simple set is accentuated by some very clever projection – a German translation of a poem by Alexander Pope, which encapsulates the story, is scrambled into various images which represent key settings or themes in the plot. This is stunning at times, and is an idea which should certainly be developed further in the future. In terms of costumes, the designers have gone for a naturalistic feel. The well thought-out design of the production is a key factor in its success: the set, lighting and costumes are tasteful and prop up the plot without distracting from the key subject matter.

The performances are great too. It is not easy for an actor to put him or herself in the shoes of a pubescent 19th century German schoolchild, but this cast do a remarkable job. The lead roles, played by Ana Luderowski as the naive Wendla and David Palmstrom as the dejected Melchior, are elegantly performed, and there are some cracking supporting performances too. One standout was Joe Sowerbutts as Moritz, a young man driven to the edge by academic pressure – his rendition is touching and moving, so kudos to this young actor. Sophie Doherty also gives a brilliant performance as Melchior’s mother, in a cooly-delivered, calm and composed style which betrays her experience as an actress.

To sum up, this is a production of a difficult but important play which ticks all the right boxes. It is fantastic to see a young company burst onto the London fringe scene with such a mature and considered production, as well as some terrific design ideas and strong performances. We expect to see great things in the future from this talented group. This show only has a short run, so grab your tickets while you can!

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Spring Awakening runs at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre until 14th June 2012. 
Box Office: 0844 847 2454 or book online at http://www.brockleyjack.co.uk

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