Spring Awakening is
a never going to be an "enjoyable" evening at the theatre.
Provocative, yes. Disturbing at times, yes. But not enjoyable. Set in
late 19th century Germany, it follows a handful of
teenagers as they discover their burgeoning sexuality in a sexually
repressed society. Unfortunately Icarus Theatre’s production stops
short from ever being truly engaging or shocking.
The company claims to create
contemporary Theatre of the Absurd but, rather than integrate
elements of the absurd within the piece as a whole, they use them
sporadically. Within the first act Zachary Holton’s lighting
design has houselights raised to indicate sunlight (that has the
audience looking at each other in confusion) while movable pieces of
set are brought on by the actors in a strange, stylised way. Adam
Purnell’s industrial backdrop provides an interesting contrast
with Kate Unwin’s historically accurate costumes – but it isn’t
enough to keep the audience’s attention.
As Melchior David McLaughlin is
engaging and subtle. He accurately portrays a cocky, self assured
teenager with a “been-there, done-that” attitude which is slowly
eroded by doubt and fear. His chemistry with Gabrielle Dempsey as
Wendla is interestingly touching; you can tell they are fearfully
itching to get to know each other’s bodies. Kaiden Dubois gives a
brave performance as Hanshen and it is a testament to him that
despite the majority of the audience being school kids under 16 there
is only a tittering of laughter during an intimate moment.
But ultimately the action is stilted
and fails to grab the audience. Although Frank Wedekind’s script
would be challenging for any company, Icarus Theatre’s inconsistent
approach to this difficult text means this play struggles to make an