Spring Awakening directed by James Baker is an exhilarating musical riddled with morality and iced with vulnerability and this new production succeeds in raising the standard for fringe theatre in Manchester.
Taking its inspiration from the original Frank Wedekind expressionist play written in 1891, this is a highly thought provoking coming of age musical - exploring the trials, tears and excitement of the teenage years. In this new adaptation by Assembled Junk Productions the action is set in 1935 in pre-World War 2 Germany.
The production houses a full live band adding to the power of the piece, with strong vocal performances from all 13 members of the cast. Francesca Swarbrick gives a pitch perfect, highly convincing and delicate performance as Wendla. Francesca Swarbrick and Matthew Kirk, (who plays Young Melchior) balance the complexity of their relationship well, intertwining intense passion with sensitivity - a recipe for a compelling partnership on stage. Matthew Waters gives an outstanding performance as a heavily eye-lined emo style Moritz - again vocally strong, his performance is as heartfelt as it is powerful.
Director James Baker handles the piece masterfully, juxtaposing the more emotional scenes with well paced choreographed comedic sequences - particularly between Ernst and Hanschen, played by Rob Woodward and Dale Curren. The action flows well from one scene to the next by the use of sleek and smooth set changes. The props are simple but very effective, the scrawled school books, newspapers and letters are convincing and well thought out.
Spring Awakening works exceptionally well in the setting of Studio Salford at The Kings Arms, the space transformed with seating on both sides and the stage in the middle. This allows for an intimate relationship between the cast and the audience - the actors being so close you can almost feel their breath on your face.
This flawless production is a highly energised and incredible piece of musical theatre and definitely one which succeeds in smashing the ceiling of the Manchester fringe theatre scene.