Spring Awakening, Frank Wedekind’s play first performed in 1906, is as much a child of its time as of its author. Created at a time when Sigmund Freud was still wrestling with seduction theory and the sexuality of children, a production for the twenty-first century inevitably raises the question of how Wedekind’s vision appears to a contemporary audience.
Grid Iron’s production is both faithful to Wedekind and reflective in its interpretation of the drama he created. There are a number of heart-stopping moments of theatricality as the cast spin the fates of the central characters, showing how social expectation and convention shrink and ultimately destroy hope and even life itself.
Spring Awakening has never been an easy option in theatrical terms, but Grid Iron’s production has a deceptively simple integrity which doesn’t flinch from the play’s challenging moments.
The cast take on a several roles apiece, giving each its fair share of the shattering light and oppressive darkness which the adolescent characters can switch on and off as their moods swing between optimism and despair. The roller-coaster which is adolescence has rarely been more terrifying and uplifting than the journey depicted here, its possibilities and limitations ably given form through Ali Maclaurin’s sparkling design touches.
If our human curse is not so much to grow up as to be aware that we have (and ultimately have to), Wedekind reminds us what the price of the process can sometimes be. If we rage against the dying of the bright fire of our youth, we come to shrink from it as well, while envying those who in their turn bathe in its flame.
Although clearly on the side of the young (certainly the young characters in his play), Wedekind also acknowledges the problematic ambivalence Spring Awakening can induce in its audiences, which is perhaps what enables productions like this one to continue to resonate within our selves.
If we are beasts who have only lately escaped the nursery, we perhaps need to be reminded of this from time to time. Grid Iron’s production succeeds in doing this magnificently.
runs til 13 November
£14- £16 (£10-£12 concs / £6 unemployed)