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Spring Awakening Review

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
4 stars
When boys and girls come out to play in Grid Iron’s new version of Frank Wedekind’s gloriously messy look at nineteenth century adolescent angst, it’s a matter of life and death. Or at least that’s the case for serious young men Moritz and Melchior, too dumbstruck by what they read in books to fully appreciate girls like short-skirted Wendla and wild child Ilsa. Reconstituted to a Calvinist Scottish classroom, where chalk drawings of willies and bums are the only creative outlet for the kids, sex and death are everything to aspire to in Douglas Maxwell’s far funnier than expected version.

Director Ben Harrison may have located the action to a conventional theatre in this co-production with the Traverse, but Grid Iron’s site-specific hallmarks are very much in evidence in an expansively three-dimensional production. The stage’s back doors open and close on a peek-a-boo style peep show that becomes a quick fire Freudian strip cartoon awash with Rennie Mackintosh motifs and sexual symbolism aplenty.

It begins in jauntily playful Carry-On style, with Philip Pinsky’s score ushering in a swathe of over-articulate shenanigans that sets a potty-mouthed template for Skins and The Inbetweeners, except here the teenage kicks turn to suicide, rape and abortion. Beyond the juvenile need to shock, talk dirty and play rough, Wedekind’s original is suitably all over the place in a series of snapshot-size scenes that create an impressionistic feel rather than inviting sympathy. There are nevertheless fine moments from Finn den Hertog, Gavin Wright, Angela Hardie and Kirsty Stuart as the main protagonists, who skirt around each other as if at a school disco gone wrong in this most darkly stylish coming of age tragedy.

The Herald, November 4th 2010



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