Morgan Scobie reviews Spring Awakening, the Just So Society’s contribution to the On the Rocks Festival. 

 

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The award winning rock musical Spring Awakeningfeaturing music by Duncan Sheik and lyrics by Steven Sater—is based on the popular yet controversial German play of the same title by Frank Wedekind. Set in late nineteenth-century Germany, the play explores the inner and outer turmoil of teenage sexuality.

Confusion and intensity, among other emotions, make teenage life challenging and awkward, as Just So Society’s production illustrates. A vibrant ensemble of actors portrayed the confused teenagers, among the characters are Wendla (Katie Hill), whose protective mother keeps her unknowing to anything sexual, as well as Moritz (Elliot Douglas) whose life is ruined by failure—and also Melchior (Chris Miller) who remains emotionally isolated. The young characters are governed by six prudish elders, played by only two characters that repeatedly change costume to indicate a change in character.

Spring Awakening explores adolescent sexuality in various ways, including themes of rape, masturbation, and homosexuality. We see the bewilderment and anxiety that occurs when the onrush of teenage hormones hits ignorant children whose parents are too embarrassed to discuss what these new feelings mean. Indeed, two of the three lead characters die because one, Moritz, is tormented by failure and the shame of sexual fantasies, calling them “nightmares.”The other, Wendla, is the victim of a botched abortion because her mother would sooner put her daughter in danger rather than admit indecency.

It is not enough to define this play as a discussion of how important sex education is for minors. Hewitt shows us that oppression and rectitude are not just what these young characters are feeling, but that there is a repetitive cycle of naive teenagers who will always try to understand new temptations and seductions no matter how educated they are on the subject of sexuality. This play is about the difficulty of finding a balance in the world of desire and sexual urges, which is all too often frightening and unfamiliar at the age of fourteen.

The excellent Katie Hill gave a heartfelt rendering of Wendla, portraying confidence with an essence of vulnerability. She also creates a strong chemistry with the wonderful Chris Miller’s Melchior. We see their flirtation becoming sinister at times, even dark and shocking as she begs “I want you to hit me”—and yet there is a strong connection between them. Elliot Douglas also puts in a powerful performance as the apprehensive Moritz (again as aforementioned), whose memorable scene before he commits suicide left his audience heartbroken and mournful.

Despite the sense of sadness and depression central to Spring Awakening, Hewitt has also included a fair share of humour. These combined elements, brought to life by Just So Society’s energetic cast, delivered an exciting and thrilling performance.

 

Morgan Scobie

 

Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/events/799336430151715/