Spring Awakening, Stockwell Playhouse | Review

Spring Awakening
Stockwell Playhouse
Reviewed on Thursday 16th August 2018 by Olivia Mitchell 

I would hazard a guess that there aren't many musical theatre fans of my age that didn't go through a Spring Awakening phase. For me it went a little like this: watched the Glee pilot episode, became obsessed with Lea Michele, watched everything related to her entire career, found the bootleg of Spring Awakening, watched said bootleg obsessively, downloaded the cast recording, sung Mama Who Bore Me on an endless loop and never looked back. For someone who went through the phase hard, it's surprising that  despite a number of revivals in the past few years, I'd never seen an actual production of the show so when the opportunity arose to see the British Theatre Academy's (BTA) production, I couldn't resist.

The show follows a group of German teens as they find themselves and their sexuality and discover how tough growing up really is. The BTA have done an absolutely outstanding job of bringing this Tony Award winning show to life in the confined space of the Stockwell Playhouse. For a production that is only running for three days, it's truly impeccable how well staged, polished and rounded it is.

In the lead roles of Wendla and Melchior we have Charlotte Coe and Max Harwood who give truthful performances, both individually and in unison. Charlotte brings Wendla's childlike innocence to life whilst Max as the 'educated' Melchior portrays a perfect combination of knowledge and youthfulness, that's especially effective throughout the arc of his story. With Ben Platt-esque subtle riffs and fantastically subtle acting choices, it's hard to take your eyes off Max and I'm certain he has a bright acting career ahead of him.

As Moritz, James Knudsen is exceptional. His nervous energy and frenzied eyes are perfect for the character who is struggling with school, family and sexuality. Ginnie Thompson is great as Ilse, providing an almost angelic vibe which is especially effective towards the end.

This truly is an ensemble show and what's so special is that the cast seem to have genuinely created a community feel in a very short space of time. The way they move as a whole and in waves is remarkable to watch and creates a constant sense of movement and discovery. Mention must go to Dafydd Lansley as Georg/Rupert who draws the eye throughout ad he commits fully to his role with his nuanced twitches and movements throughout. James Dodd and James Heward as Ernst and Hanschen also give wonderfully subtle performances that make the characters feel real and easily relatable for anyone facing the same struggles.

Matt Nicholson's choreography is minimalistic but effective throughout. The dance in The Dark I Know Well is especially moving and well performed. Dean Johnson has done a wonderful job of directing Spring Awakening so it has a perfect balance of humour and sadness and enough subtlety to be emotive without being over dramatic. The vocals in this production are all you could wish for, Jordan Li-Smith has done a brilliant job alongside the five-piece band who accompany the action with faultless music.

With tears still filling my eyes, I left the Stockwell Playhouse feeling moved, inspired and overjoyed at the talent of this amazing production. Whether you're a Spring Awakening fan or just someone who's curious about the show, I'd throughly recommend seeing this production.

Spring Awakening runs at the Stockwell Playhouse until August 18th

photo credit: Eliza Wilmot

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