Venue: The Factory Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Jun 15 – 17, 2015
Book & Lyrics: Steven Sater (based on the original play by Frank Wedekind)
Music: Duncan Shiek
Directors: Alexander Andrews, Sam Haft
Cast: Thomas G Burt, Jamie Collette, Abbie Gallagher, Hannah Garbo, Nathaniel Hole, Julianne Horne, Charlotte Kerr, Logan McArthur, Jonathan Nash-Daly, Damien Noyce, Jordan Stam, Mitch Thornton, Kaleigh Wilkie-Smith
Spring Awakening is concerned with how teenagers learn about sex, and how they deal with burgeoning adulthood. The musical is critical of how adults fail to provide adequate or appropriate guidance, and this low-budget production by young enthusiasts, provides an uncanny parallel between that central theme and the state of theatre in Sydney for emerging talents. We have a rich history of show business in this town, that boasts some of the world’s greatest practitioners, but they are missing from this staging. There seems an unfortunate chasm between generations, and on this occasion, a full scale production, although well-meaning, has been created from a wealth of promising but inexperienced individuals, who have naively chosen to tackle a beast much more formidable than they were ever able to foresee.
Sound issues are not chief of its problems, but its frankly shocking deficiencies from beginning to end have rendered the plot incomprehensible, and represents a complete disregard for any semblance of balance to harmonies being attempted by performers. Consolidating all the string sections in the arrangement onto a single violin is probably a matter of financial inevitability, but the results are often painfully lacking.
Efforts at creative spacial use by directors and choreographer help with energy and scene transitions, but execution requires a great deal of finessing. The story’s most crucial event takes place at a position on stage that only the very first rows can glimpse, further demonstrating the need for more experienced management on the project. The cast is a green one, with some discernible ability, but there is no cohesion in their conception of what is being presented. Key characters are sung by unremarkable voices, and the level of acting overall is regretful. One exception is Charlotte Kerr who shines in her solo as Ilse, with a beautiful and controlled voice that brings a moment of sobering polish to the show.
All of the very best have failed spectacularly in the public eye. Creative souls must not sit back and wait for the perfect opportunity before allowing themselves to put their passion into action. Many have perished without leaving a mark for fear of failure. The artistic process is very rarely without episodes of disappointment, but one cannot expect a masterpiece to materialise without first braving the wilderness.