Spring Awakening Toes the Line of Being Edgy

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John Han (Georg) and Jesse Negraeff (Ernst), Ian Crowe (Melchior), Austin Eckert (Moritz), Nick Heffelfinger (Hanschen) in Spring Awakening / Music by DUNCAN SHEIK, Book & Lyrics by STEVEN SATER / Photos by David Lowes. http://www.belfry.bc.ca/spring-awakening/

Victoria’s first-ever staging of Spring Awakening, a musical about coming of age and discovering one’s sexuality, hits the high notes but loses something along the way.

The acting was well done by all with my favourites being the three main characters, Wendla (Siobhan Barker), Melchior (Ian Crowe), and especially Moritz (Austin Eckert). They all encapsulated their characters and were able to create powerful emotional moments throughout both song and dialogue. I had trouble differentiating between the adult characters, as one man and one woman played all five or six between them. I have seen performances where actors change characters and are clearly defined through costumes and mannerisms, yet I didn’t find this to be the case in Spring Awakening.

The staging was generally very well thought out, especially with the use of the movable ramp that changed location of the scene based on its position on the stage. However, sometimes I felt actors were facing too far to one side or the other, which blocked their face from too much of the small studio theatre. This would be easily fixed with some minor tweaks in blocking.

Although initially I couldn’t figure out what was troubling me throughout the play, I knew something about the story wasn’t sitting right. I found some of the minor storylines were thrown in to create a more diverse plot without delving deeper into them. The homosexuality plot between two of the characters could have been an interesting dynamic from the beginning. The child abuse was used solely to keep Melchior and Wendla’s story going. The busty piano teacher was an aside, and the character having fantasies about his mother was hardly acknowledged at all.

After researching the plot more, I discovered the amount of censure this version had undergone. I understand a group of young adults not wanting to perform a play that includes a rape scene between the two leads and condemns the man who committed suicide, but then this play should not have been chosen. I imagine Spring Awakening is frequently censored to appear more palatable for audiences, but then it shouldn’t be marketed as such a controversial play. If no one sees the shocking scenes then it isn’t actually causing a stir.

 

This play is at The Belfry theatre until November 2, 2014. Tickets can be found here.

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