Saturday, 31 January 2009

Smells Like...

Vix and Lara treated me to an afternoon at the Lyric to see Spring Awakening - the musical, which opens to the press next week, following two years of critical acclaim on Broadway. I suspect it'll be a wild and popular success, mostly because it's so very clever at tapping into and emulating both the language and the oedipal desires of teen spirit. I can see standing ovations all round.

In reality the show's an odd, but not unengaging, mix of Wedekind's original nineteenth century play with it's radical exploration of post- puberty and a modern rock opera with attitude. Neon light strips and hand held mics, languidly held, intersect with formal school uniforms and severe haircuts. A kind of History Boys meets the Pussy Cat Dolls.

Most of this British cast are on their first professional show and they're very, very good. Clearly committed, sweet voiced and charismatic. Their relative inexperience is ably supported by strong performances by old hands Sian Thomas and Richard Cordery. Although in one tricky sequence the cast properly rock out, which hangs the two older actors out to dry, leaving them gamboling Mary Poppins stylee in an embarrassing attempt to keep pace.

Whether the show marks a new standard in the never ending battle to make theatre accessible, relevant and meaningful to young people remains to be seen, but in terms of design, content and style it's certainly having a good go. It's a gift for Drama teachers looking for a credible yet mildly subversive big show experience to take their classes to and if you're a teenage dirtbag yourself you'll find the rebellion of Spring Awakening - the musical both moving and 'told you so' affirming.

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