A stunning reimagining
By Bradley Storer
Frank Wedekind’s play Spring Awakening – a tale of sex, violence, and the messy transition from child towards adulthood – is a classic of the twentieth century, incredibly explicit and shocking for the conservative times in which it was written and instantly banned. Awakening, an adaption of the original Spring by director Daniel Lammin comprised of five actors (Nicola Dupree, Samantha Hafey-Bagg, Eamonn Johnson, James Malcher, Sam Porter and Imogen Walsh) all sharing and swapping roles, seeks to unpack and re-examine the issues raised in the original play to see if anything has changed.
Oddly enough, it is when the play sticks close to its source material that it feels slightly flat – the earlier, more traditional scenes seem to drag and lack energy despite the commitment of the cast and a wonderful sound design (constructed by Porter) that enlivens every scene. As more stylized and less naturalistic conventions take over, the true and more thrilling theatre begins to appear. Hansy’s masturbatory monologue has never been more intimate and enthralling, and the darkness and horror of the barn scene chills the blood, Wendla’s terrified whispers echoing in the blackness.
The second act, which breaks completely with the setting and costuming of the original text, is where Awakening truly comes into its own. Here Wedekind’s play is cracked open and re-examined in the light of modern society, the most obvious connection being the continuing prevalence of youth suicide and disconnection from each other even in an age where technology connects us in more ways than ever, depicted here in funny and finally tear-inducing series of text messages that pinpoint that tenuous dance between the desire to reach out and the fear of the vulnerability inherent in doing so. The cast are brilliantly versatile, swapping roles with ease, singing multiple harmonies on many occasions and even playing instruments for a Freddie Mercury song.
The final, brilliant revelation this re-examination comes to is an uncovering and denouncement of the original Spring Awakening’s support and perpetuation (whether intentionally or unintentionally, but it is made clear that this makes little difference) of rape culture, pointing out a hideous contradiction in thinking that feels both stunningly obvious and horribly insidious.
Lammin and the cast should be incredibly proud, Awakening is shocking in the best sense of the word: a true ‘awakening’.
Venue: Fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne.
Dates: 10th – 21st May 2017
Times: Tuesday – Saturday 7:30pm, Sunday 5pm
Price: $25 – $35
Tickets: 03 9662 9966 or fortyfivedownstairs.com