Theatre Review: Spring Awakening at Stockwell Playhouse

Cygnet Players are just coming to the end of their four day run of the award-running musical Spring Awakening at Stockwell Playhouse, and it’s one heck of a show…

Lead image: Courtesy Cygnet Players

Boy would we like to be a fly on the wall at this wrap party! The energetic cast, unafraid to express the full tumult of emotions evoked by this once controversial play, which takes the audience from hilarity to tear-jerking tragedy, have the kind of chemistry that really draws you in, makes you feel like you’re right there with them and join them post show for a well deserved knees up.

Led by an all-female creative team – with Direction by Aimee Parnell, Musical Direction by Harriet Oughton and Choreography by Kim Schenkelaars – this production takes a dark subject matter and turns it into a high-energy production with a candid humour that had the audience in raptures.

Certainly there were friends and family members of the cast in the audience who found, in particular, the sex scene worthy of vocal support, something you’re unlikely to see in a West End version, but perhaps that’s the simple joy of amateur theatre? A more intimate setting, being so close to the cast you can almost touch them, and an audience that’s got the cast’s back.

‘A particular highlight had to be the particularly passionate delivery of the song Totally F*cked’

The word ‘amateur’ seems unjust for the quality of production. Faultless acting, bewitching singing voices that leave tears pricking at your eyes and dance moves that, sure, might not have ‘smashed it’ like Diversity when they stormed to victory on Britain’s Got Talent, but were delivered with verve.

A hilarious wanking scene and a frank depiction of two young lovers discovering each other kept the audience gripped, while a particular highlight had to be the particularly passionate delivery of the song Totally F*cked.

Spring Awakening, winner of eight Tony Awards, four Olivier Awards and a Grammy for the Broadway cast album, follows the eventful journey of a group of students in late 19th century Germany, as they navigate the tricky business of adolescence, from academic expectations and challenging authority to the teenage obsession with sex and sexuality.

It’s adapted Adapted from Frank Wedekind’s 1891 expressionist play Frühlings Erwachen, which was banned in its time and later often reproduced in censored formats due to its controversial subject matter.

A musical adaptation of the play opened off-Broadway in 2006, featuring music by Duncan Sheik and book and lyrics by Steven Sater, soon moving to Broadway and picking up the Tony Award for Best Musical among the slew of aforementioned gongs.

‘Spring Awakening is a bold choice for Cygnets with its subject matter,’ says Director Aimee Parnell, ‘and it has been an honour and a privilege to be directing this landmark musical in a new venue for the society.

‘Over the last three months, this talented cast and production team have got to grips with the context, research and history, delving into the text and score to understand the motivation, emotions and surprising amounts of humour.’

When Sater proposed the production, Sheik said that he would want to ‘do something where the music feels relevant to people’s lives today’, so they wrote the musical adaption in response to the Columbine High School Massacre.

Twenty years on, with the scourge of knife crime on London’s streets, the themes of morality, sexual politics and empowerment are still very much relevant. On hearing about this latest adaption, Sater even sent a video message to the Cygnet Players team:

For more on the Cygnet Players, see cygnetplayers.com

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