Spring is awakened and eyes undoubtedly opened in Anya Reiss’ new take on Frank Wedekind’s 1891 play, Spring Awakening. A fresh look at the original, Headlong Theatre certainly know how to shock.
The play begins light-heartedly, if not awkwardly, with a boy sitting on a toilet masturbating. While it receives a few embarrassed titters from the audience, it is clear that this production starts as it means to go on. Distressing scenes include a rape and a suicide, as the school children fumble through puberty in an attempt to discover what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’. The audience are constantly reminded of the gap between the generations: the young actors throw on different pieces of clothing to represent either a parent or a teacher, but seconds later question their doing so in a child-like manner. Live video footage and a pumping soundtrack complement the fast-paced script, taking the audience into the world of the adolescents to portray the pressures young people face in everyday life. Welda (Aoife Duffin) questions her appearance, Moritz (Bradley Hall) believes he is continuously failing and Melchior (Oliver Johnstone) struggles to come to terms with who he is.
But as the play continues, you begin to question what point is actually being made here. Is Anya Reiss commenting on the holes in the education system, the lack of support for young people, or the ever-growing gap between generations? Of course, Spring Awakening has timeless themes, yet, this new version seems to attack today’s society in particular, as numerous young people suffer with the “earnest struggle of life”. You leave the theatre feeling distressed, tormented, bruised, but also enlightened. They’re harsh realities, but harsh realities that need to be said.
Spring Awakening is on at the Nuffield theatre until 5th April. Tickets are available here.
Image (c) Tristram Kenton.