Spring Awakening by Cygnet Players
I can be difficult to really win over when it comes to musical theatre but I need to set it out from the off that Cygnet Player’s production of Spring Awakening not only won me over but proved to be a real theatrical highlight for me.
Spring Awakening is based on the 1981 German Play which tells of a group of teens coming of age. Wendla is naive and despite her pleas to her mother to tell her how babies are conceived remains non the wiser, where as Melchoir is headstrong and worldly wise. Moritz struggles to live up to the expectations of his teachers and parents and Martha reveals that she is regularly beaten. With only each other for support they struggle to understand their bodies, their feelings and desires.
This show requires some incredible actors with not only exceptional acting ability but also technical singers able to perform difficult solo numbers and take on intricate harmonies. It is therefore a brave show for any am dram company to choose but the risk paid off for Cygnet Players.
The cast were more than up to the challenges I have listed above and as each of them had their moment to shine I was impressed at the strength of the cast across the board. Matthew Wright played Melchior opposite Veronique Piercy’s Wendla. Wright’s self assurance contrasted nicely against Piercy’s youthful innocence. Piercy opened the show with ‘Mama Who Bore Me,’ and her assured clear tone set the bar high for the rest of the night.
Moritz was played by Glen Jordan who captured the confusion that Mortiz was experiencing perfectly and Ellie Jones as Martha moved the audience with ‘The Dark I Know Well.’ The adults were played by Laura Harrison and Josh Yard who flitted between every adult role in the show. Harrison had the harder job to do as more variety is required from the female adults. She took on roles from stern school teacher to Melchor’s more liberal mother but she portrayed them all with ease and ensured that the audience always understood her role at that precise moment from subtle changes in her body language.
My only, very slight criticism about the character choice was Hanschen played by Lewis McKenzie. It is a fine line to tread between arrogant and slightly stereotyped and at times he verged just into the wrong side of the line.
The choreography (Kim Schenkelaars) and the direction (Aimee Parnell) of the show is also spot on. The choreography during ‘Totally Fucked’ portrayed the anger well and ‘Bitch of Living’ had the quirky staccato movement that you need to see in this number. All of the mpvement seemed to have intention and none was placed there simply for the sake of it or to give the cast something to do. Within the direction there were beautiful touches such as the formation of the candles at the end of Act 1 and how this picked up again at the start of Act 2. The action was kept flowing throughout the show meaning the tension really had a chance to build.
The music was also beautifully delivered with MD Harriet Oughton at the helm. They mastered the score from the rocky aggressive numbers which really packed a punch to the beautifully balanced and harmony rich numbers such as ‘The Song of Purple Summer.’
It did however appear to be a real team effort with monochrome costumes by Phoebe Fleetham, a set by Zoe Dobell which made magical use of levels when the hay barn seemingly appeared in front of our eyes and lighting by Richard Pike which was kept simple but allowed the audience to easily focus on the action and the contrasting colours for different characters in some numbers were a nice touch.
I may have waxed lyrical about this show but it really did leave me thrilled that I had been asked to review it. I just hope that it get the audience that it deserves, as it is shows like that that helps blur the line between amateur and professional theatre.
Spring Awakening is playing until 13th July at Stockwell Playhouse. To find out more about the Cygnet Players visit their website.