Homosexuality, domestic violence, rape, suicide and abortion. These are the challenging and hard-hitting themes explored in the coming-of-age rock opera, Spring Awakening.
The Sussex Musical Theatre Society (SMuTS) presented their portrayal of this challenging piece with five performances last week at The Old Market Theatre in Hove.
SMuTS was established in 1991 and throughout the years has produced a variety of traditional and contemporary musical theatre pieces; from classics such as Sondheim’s West Side Story, to Little Shop of Horrors and Jonathan Larson’s RENT, which was performed in February 2012 at the Sallis Benney Theatre.
This more modern approach continues with their 2013 production. Adapted from a banned, 19th century German play, Spring Awakening depicts the emotional fallout of a group of teenagers struggling to come to turns with their sexuality.
Director, Jess Duxbury, said: “The music of Spring Awakening works the emotions and thoughts of these violently passionate and angry teens into a far more expressive format than simply words alone.”
This being said, what with the musical’s angsty, pop rock style, there is a real danger of making light of these very serious issues. Was this a problem for SMuTS’ portrayal?
Audience member, Sophie Turton, said: “It was an entertaining show, but I found it really hard to take it seriously at all.”
It’s hard to tell whether this was due to the performance or the writing itself; however, it’s fair to say that a number of things hampered the ability of the cast to do the piece its full justice.
Lead actress, Georgia Ermilios, a Psychology student said: “The biggest challenge was probably getting into the theatre the day before our first performance. Although this tends to be pretty standard procedure, for a few members of the cast this was their first show and it felt a little weird only having one rehearsal in this new, never before used space before having to have the real performances.”
This lack of preparation was most obvious on the opening night in the amount of technical difficulties. The microphone levels were frequently off, if on at all, and the amateur cast struggled to perform with them without causing a horrible distorted rumble. Thankfully, the set and the rest of the production was very well conceived and executed, and most technical difficulties were ironed out by the closing night.
In any case, the talent on stage went a huge way to balancing out these minor imperfections. Ollie Beckwith, playing second lead male Moritz, stood out particularly; striking the perfect balance with his character between innocence and sexual bewilderment.
Lead actor, Joshua Crisp, said: “Considering only around 100 people auditioned, the talent the cast bring to every rehearsal and to the show itself is nothing short of astounding.”
The band also deserve a special mention. The score was performed with accuracy and emotion; the electric rock sound ripping through the bare rafters of the old theatre. The fact that the band were visible on stage, coupled with the use of microphones, made you feel more like you were at a gig than the theatre – something that many audience members will have found delightfully unexpected, as well as improving the experience for the more skeptical theatregoer.
In terms of the emotional payload, I did see some tears; however, I must confess that I left the theatre far from moved. This could have been because I had seen the musical performed previously.
Ultimately, with the excellent choreography, singing and acting on display, a good time was had by all. An evening very well spent.