Spring Awakening is an emotional rollercoaster. In early December, The University of East Anglia’s Drama and Musical Theatre Society made the decision to put on its own version of the Tony Award Winning Musical. It was rehearsed entirely on Zoom. It was recorded independently. It was filmed. In other words, this show was unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
Awarded The Most Improved Society at the UEA SU 2021 Stars Awards, this year’s production of Spring Awakening proved just why. Sparkling from the start, the cast seemed to gell majestically, singing with gusto whilst demonstrating a clear awareness of the importance of a subtle, rather than exaggerated performance. This was, after all, filmed. And yes, there was plenty of passion and ferocity, but never in excess. Dealing with difficult issues and conversations that matter in the contemporary age, the performance was cleverly directed and heroically acted.
An intermission separated act 1 from 2, enough time to boil the kettle and catch your breath. Truth be told, I’m still catching mine. Filmed in the context of social distancing, the camera angle often changed, quite unnecessarily it could be said, but it did at the very least offer a pleasantly human touch. Self harm was mentioned, and the suicide of a bullied schoolboy acted as the tragedy that binded the students together. However, this show is about the struggles of loneliness at a difficult time, about the neglected and disconnected people living as voiceless entities. Perfect timing.
The song, “Totally Fucked”, spilled with unwavering optimism, and the redness of cheeks demonstrated the anger felt in reaction to the despairing stubbornness of elders. The casting director, whoever it was, deserves the first glass of champagne. Lillian Carver, the newly elected President of DMTS, played the role of Martha with a wonderful precision, partnering with Ilse played by the equally accomplished Lexine Lee in a fierce performance of “The Dark I Know Well”. Georg, played by the brilliant Rosie Hastings, stole the show in parts with a voice of genuine quality. Hamilton Brown’s portrayal of Ernst matched his character’s timidness and vulnerability with a veracious confidence. Towards the end of the show, Lucas Fox played Melchior Gabor’s sadness skilfully and sensibility, whilst Polly Maltby was at ease throughout as the kind spirited but luckless Wendla Bergmann.
But truth be told, this was a show in which everyone should be celebrated, Director and Publicity Officer, Musical Director and Choreographer, Production Assistant and Dramaturg. Under the excellent direction of Charlie Bench, Spring Awakening was easily the most unforgettable and inspiring show on campus this year. These people really set the standard. As COVID restrictions lift, many feel they’re waking up from a long and stressful COVID induced nightmare. Is it any surprise that this lot never fell asleep?