Songs and music by Duncan Sheik
Directed by Laura Balboni
King Street Theatre
644 King Street, Newtown
Season: 25-28 October
There exists a strong tension as to how we should go about sex education, and fears and consequences of teaching young people too much or too little about sex and sexuality. MUSE’s musical production of Spring Awakening shows that even young people growing up in an environment repressive of sexual expression, exploration and education – young people are still going to have sex. Furthermore, rather than ‘protecting the children’, the suppression of sexual understanding only goes to subject young people to harm and exploitation. This production, directed by Laura Balboni, grapples keenly with sexual politics, garnering your empathy for these characters in dire circumstances, expressed through strong vocal work and choreography.
From the very beginning, Georgia Rodgers grabs your attention as the innocent and naïve Wendla, with a killer voice. Wendla wants to understand where babies come from, and her mother only manages to tell her that a baby is conceived when a woman loves her husband with all her heart. Matt Hourigan and Fred Pryce play Melchior and Moritz respectively, two teenage boys trying to navigate their adolescence with the help of Melchior’s clandestine research. In amongst this confusion, we are privy to Martha’s admission of abuse by her father, and hear the story of tragic demise of Ilse (played compassionately by Sarah Levins) after being subject to similar abuse by her parents. Two teenagers have sex for the first time. We see the implications in each of these circumstances play out…
Spring Awakening is a rock style musical even though it is set in the 1900s. The energy levels and choreography by Miranda Middleton is punchy and refreshing. It becomes a powerful experience in the relatively small space of the King Street Theatre – performers are unapologetically in your face, which is bold and exciting. Occasionally some of the acting felt better suited for a larger performance space however, as it could feel a little overdone when you’re so close up.
This production doesn’t allow you to look away, bringing important issues to the forefront and illustrating the calamitous consequences of repression and the silencing of young people. It is quite phenomenal that Frank Wedekind’s original 1891 play manages to capture themes that remain pertinent to this day, and Balboni’s production illuminates these issues with dynamism and contemporary touch. Will we ever learn?