Review: Spring Awakening at the Almeida Theatre
Heart-warming talent on display in this acclaimed musical portrayal of adolescent angst
Thursday, 30th December 2021 — By Lucy Popescu
Stuart Thompson, Amara Okereke and Laurie Kynaston in Spring Awakening. Photo Marc Brenner
Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik’s acclaimed musical, based on Frank Wedekind’s 1891 play, is about a group of adolescents struggling with their sexuality, identity, familial tensions and the stress of their studies.
At the heart of Spring Awakening is confident teenager Melchior (Laurie Kynaston), a bright spark and popular student, his friendship with sensitive Moritz (Stuart Thompson) and burgeoning passion for the sexually naïve Wendla (Amara Okereke).
Moritz is the antithesis of Melchior: nervous, unable to concentrate, troubled by his erotic dreams, worried about his exams and failing his parents. When he starts carrying a gun, we know things will end badly.
Wedekind’s provocative play covers an astonishing array of issues just as resonant today. These include child abuse, the repression and shaming of youthful desires, teenage pregnancy, homosexuality and depression.
Rupert Goold’s slick production is immensely watchable. Miriam Buether’s versatile set, comprised of steps, trapdoors and glass screens, Jack Knowles’ lighting together with Finn Ross’s video design are superb.
Sater’s contemporary lyrics don’t always meet their mark and an over-insistent drumbeat occasionally detracts from the terrific staging. What remains with you is the sheer exuberance and discipline of this talented young cast.
Kynaston and Okereke have great stage presence and beautiful singing voices to match. Okereke’s range, in particular, is remarkable. Catherine Cusack and Mark Lockyer play the various adult roles with aplomb. But it is the tightness of the ensemble that impresses the most and Goold ensures they are all given their moment to shine.
Lynne Page’s joyous choreography serves as a welcome counterpoint to the darkness of the text. The subject may not be your usual festive fare, but the breadth of the talent on display is heart-warming and will remain with you long after the final, rapturously received, bow.
Until January 22