SPRING AWAKENING Review: A spectacular, poignant piece that doesn't shy away from it's controversial themes

Nikita Johal, Darragh Cowley & Company of SPRING AWAKENING

Nikita Johal, Darragh Cowley & Company of SPRING AWAKENING. Photo: Scott Rylander

SPRING AWAKENING is a spectacular, poignant piece full of emotion and hope despite its dark nature

Hope Mill Theatre takes on it’s seventh in-house musical since opening in 2016 and SPRING AWAKENING is a spectacular, poignant piece that doesn’t shy away from it’s talking points. 

Based on the 1891 play of the same name, SPRING AWAKENING tells the story of a group of young teens navigating through puberty and discovering their blossoming sexualities in a suppressive society.  Set in late 19th century Germany, the show is full of dark and uncomfortable themes such as rape, abuse, homosexuality, teen pregnancy and abortion, which could easily seem insensitive if not handled correctly. However, the team tackle the controversial subjects sensitively without losing the gravitas of the show. Director Luke Sheppard captures the emotion and weight of the piece, but also the joy and comedy in such a harrowing story.

The staging and choreography fit the piece fantastically, and choreographer Tom Jackson Greaves has managed to accurately represent the anarchic and rebellious tone in “Mama Who Bore Me”, “The B**** Of Living” and “Totally F***ed”, all stand out numbers in the show. “Totally F***ed” is an especially uplifting and energetic number. The show makes interesting use of lighting, with many props serving to illuminate numbers. There is also an element of fun and hope injected into the show, despite its dark nature which makes you want to watch again and again.

Darragh Cowley & Full Company of SPRING AWAKENING

Darragh Cowley & Full Company of SPRING AWAKENING. Photo: Scott Rylander

All of the onstage actors gave fantastic, genuine performances, accurately portraying the anguish and confusion of repressed teenagers. Darrah Cowley and Nikita Johal, in particular, stand out for their performances as Melchior and Wendla respectively. Teleri Hughes (Ilse) and Seyi Omooba (Martha) also give a fantastic performance of the chilling “The Dark I Know Well”. Neil Stewart and Gillian Kirkpatrick are both impressive, switching between distinctly different characters throughout the performance. Finally, Christian Tyler-Wood (Georg) deserves a special mention for his impressive musical skills, proving exactly why actor-musicians are on the rise. All of the cast work together seamlessly and it is evident they had bonded during the rehearsal process.

The intimate setting of Hope Mill Theatre makes for the perfect venue for this performance, really allowing the audience to see all of the action up close and feel as if they were in the classroom with these characters. I’d be interested to see the show from another position, as the seating is in thrust, allowing for different members of the audience to see a completely different angle of the show. This, in turn, adds to the stripped back vulnerability of the piece.

All in all, SPRING AWAKENING is a fantastic show which addresses many heavy topics and delivers a strong message. Despite its powerful message and sombre themes, the show boasts plenty of light, fun moments and is endlessly rewatchable. Duncan Sheik’s score is fantastic and coupled with impressive vocalists and great choreography, it’s hard not to rave about.

5 out of 5 stars

SPRING AWAKENING runs at Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester until 3 May 2018.