first night

Spring Awakening

Anna Jeary enjoys DULOG's final (and most angst-ridden production of the year): 'Spring Awakening'


In their final Assembly Rooms show of this year DULOG have put their ever impressive stamp on the hit musical, offering up great performances, impeccable design and beautiful musical numbers with haunting melodies that stay with you long after you’ve left the theatre.

Spring Awakening tells the story of teenagers in late 19th century Germany discovering their sexuality and each other, and struggling with morality and social expectations. This tumult is expressed in the lauded rock score, performed with both gumption and handheld mics. It’s full of angst, teenage frustration, and sex – which is probably why it has proved to be a great success, claiming no fewer than 8 Tony Awards and many more.

Director Izzy Osborne has done a brilliant job with the show, in a very short space of time. The power of the whole piece lying in the strength of the ensemble, and the accomplished vocals of a score with many intricate harmonies (which is to the credit of MD and AMD Sophie Brown and Zoe Robinson).

Joe McWilliam as Melchior and Russell Lamb as Moritz were both very strong but the stand-out performance of the night came from the ever remarkable Elissa Churchill as Wendla. Churchill’s faultless vocals were enhanced by a convincing and honest performance. The scenes between Melchior and Wendla, and especially “The Word of Your Body”, were superbly done, filled to the brim with sexual tension. All musical numbers were strong and Abbie Ford’s choreography very effective, if at times it resorted to emphatic stamping as an expression of teen angst. Still, the audience loved it, roaring their applause at the highlight of the second act “Totally Fucked”.

What needs special mention however is the design; this production could almost be seen as a masterclass in how to use the Assembly Rooms theatre. The band hidden behind a curtain of white flowers, platforming to the sides for the cast to sit and part of the thrust taken to half height all created an interesting space put to very good use. The lighting design, complete with the signature Gosselin festoon, was a masterpiece – testament to Daniel Gosselin (Assistant Director and Technical Director) leaving Durham in style.

The performance was marred by some technical hiccups, and the fact that the cast seemed unconcerned with projection and diction as they had radio mics. Unfortunately this made it tricky to hear, and to follow, which is a real shame. What is more, many of the scenes were rushed which made it hard to see the poignancy in some of the key moments, such as Ilse’s meeting with Moritz.

However, overall this is still a very accomplished production – DULOG doing as they do best, putting on an excellent evening of entertainment.

11 June 2015

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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