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Spring Awakening (tour - Guildford, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre)

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
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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 impact.


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