Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester – until 3 May 2018
Guest reviewer: Elise Gallagher
Spring Awakening takes us to the heavily censored and silent world of 19th century Germany where we follow a group of teenagers’ journey of discovery into themselves, their feelings and the world around them, with both beautiful and tragic consequences waiting in the wings.
The musical is based upon the 1891 Frank Wedekind play of the same name which was prompted by the influx of teenage suicides plaguing Germany and its devoutly Protestant way of life at the time.
Its controversial subject matter – exploring motifs such as sexuality, puberty, rape, abortion, child abuse and homosexuality – meaning the play was often banned or strictly censored. Sounds quite heavy, doesn’t it? Far from it. Yes, the narrative hasb its share of pain and despair, but these scenes are handled and performed perfectly.
The casting process of this musical consisted of invited auditions in London and an open call in Manchester. As a result of this, two shining stars of the show were discovered.
Darragh Cowley plays our forward-thinking protagonist Melchior and steals the show with a standout performance as well as pitch-perfect vocals and faultless dancing to match. Jabez Sykes, who plays Moritz, gives a fantastic performance as Melchior’s conflicted friend – shockingly, Spring Awakening marks both of their professional debuts, and fantastic debuts at that – they are certainly ones to watch in the future.
Nikita Johal plays Wendla, young, naive and curious. Johal delivers a brilliant performance with breathtaking vocals which opened the show. However, the strongest vocalist by far was Sophia Simoes Da Silva, whose character Anna had little story but a lot to sing about.
There is no doubt that the cast made for an incredibly strong ensemble, but I feel once some of this ensemble were put under the spotlight they showed themselves to be weak soloists for such high-impact songs.
Gabriella Slade creates a beautiful set which evolves seamlessly between the scenes (special note also goes to Nic Farman’s light design), similarly, the show would not have had half the impact it had if it were not for the tight choreography by Tom Jackson Greaves.
This is the seventh collaboration between Aria Entertainment and Hope Mill Theatre after previous successful productions such as Yank! I sincerely hope they continue to work together. Since its arrival in the city, Hope Mill Theatre has brought much needed fresh and original plays to its stage, the already high bar that Yank! left has been raised even further by the triumph that is Spring Awakening. Go and see it.