BATS Theatre, The Heyday Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

27/01/2016 - 06/02/2016

Production Details

Imagine living inside a fantastical world continuously mutating and breeding. We place high expectations and faith into our young people from an early age. They are thrust through a state of transition to find that they don’t fit in anywhere; they are neither child nor adult. They must keep up as changes happen around them and to them. The textures and colours of their world morph and disorientate as they persist through awkward encounters, experiences and erotic fantasies. 

Watch as we interrogate the experience of growing up and the tragedies of childhood. 

*This play depicts sensitive content. 

BATS Theatre – The Dome |  1 Kent Terrace,  Wellington
27 January – 6 February, 7.30pm 

Brynley Stent
Joshua Crammond
Karin McKracken
Fran Olds
Acushla-Tara Sutton
Tom Clarke
Riley Brophy 

Samuel Phillips – Director 
Keagan Carr Fransch – Director 
Pippa Drakeford – Co-Producer & Marketing Manager 
Keely McCann – Co-Producer and Production Manager 
Lucas Neal – Set & Costume Design 
Oliver Devlin – Sound Design 
Janis Cheng – Lighting Design 
William Duignan – Graphic and Web Design  

Theatre ,

Pared-down Awakening still has modern relevance

Review by Ewen Coleman 28th Jan 2016

Regardless of when a play is written, if it is about universals themes then it will always be relevant. And this is the case with Frank Wedekind’s Spring Awakening, written in 1890 and currently playing at Bats Theatre.

With its portrayal of teenage self-discovery, rebellious youth, and the dire consequences of misplaced innocence, the situations of the young people in the play are a mirror image of many of today’s youth. [More


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A refreshing, insightful and compelling distillation

Review by John Smythe 28th Jan 2016

Barely a decade goes by without Frank Wedekind’s Spring Awakening (written in Germany around 1890-91)* being revived. Despite our belief we have moved on from those morally repressive and educationally ignorant times, an awful lot remains relevant to the personal, private experiences of individuals confronting sexual maturity.

Eight years ago Willem Wassenaar directed a memorable production with Long Cloud Youth Theatre, which played out over two and a half hours, including an interval, with a large cast playing 33 characters. This iteration, directed by Keagan Carr Fransch and Samuel Phillips, plays one hour twenty minutes without an interval, and seven actors play 12 characters.  

Back in 2008 I wrote: “[It is] a play every generation of adolescents should see (and their parents and teachers too, though maybe not at the same time). It dramatises the collision of raging hormones and fast-fusing synapses in 14 year-olds, warning of the dangers of withholding knowledge about what is natural and essential to human survival.” This is still the case despite the radical cuts which declutter the text of many minor characters; of the pompous verbosity of morally righteous establishment figures.

As I understand it, they worked from a translation by Francis J Ziegler entitled The Awakening of Spring: A Tragedy of Childhood, available online as a Project Gutenberg eBook.

Their focus is firmly on the seven bourgeoning youngsters condemned to homework and looming exams as their hormones stir. They are the only characters named in the programme. Wendla (Brynley Stent) is an unblemished innocent avid for experience. Melchior (Joshua Crammond) is a budding philosopher trying to capture his inner feeling in writing – which desperate-to-succeed-academically Moritz (Riley Brophy) and preoccupied-by-erotica Hänschen (Tom Clarke) are excited by. Free-spirit Ilse (Acushla-Tara Sutton) is aware of her seductive powers and is more attracted to bohemian artists. Having protested too much that they only like boys and that girls are tiresome, Thea (Fran Olds) and Martha (Karin McKracken) are attracted to each other …  

In the intimacy of the BATS’ Dome space, in its traverse configuration, all seven render subtext with great eloquence; it is impossible not to empathise with their inner feelings. Lucas Neal’s simple set design – a long and narrow path that soon scatters its bark shards as the youngsters step out of its confines – is also eloquent in its simplicity, greatly enhanced by Janis Cheng’s selective lighting design. And Oliver Devlin’s superb sound design denotes and supports the mood changes without being too intrusive.

We also encounter Wendla’s mother (Fran Olds) who is hopelessly inarticulate about the facts of life; Melchior’s strong and caring mother (Acushla-Tara Sutton) and, briefly, his more authoritarian father (Tom Clarke); a school Principal or Rector (Karin McKracken) who is appalled by Melchior’s writing; and a silent butler-like figure (Tom Clarke) who beckons the young into the unknown. This, I take it, is based on The Masked Man who only appears at the end in the original and has plenty to say (Wedekind himself sometimes played this role). His silence, here, is compelling.

Even with the removal of the reactions of the wider community to a key character’s suicide, little is lost by trimming the text as they have. Less is undoubtedly more.

Having seen past productions where the mother figures are clad in aprons, it’s fascinating to see the two mothers here dressed as intrepid heroes: Wendla’s mum is dressed as a polar explorer and tows a baggage-laden sledge; Melchior’s mum presents as an early aviator. This brings a whole new level of insight to the means by which they survive their intrinsically hostile environs.

If you think you’ve already seen Spring Awakening and don’t need to again, be assured this is a refreshing, insightful and compelling distillation of its timeless themes.

*I also wrote this in my 2008 review:
First produced in 1906 amid controversy that continued for decades, the English translation didn’t gain traction in America until 1958. (There had been a one-night stand in New York in 1917. When the Commissioner of Licenses judged it pornographic and tried to shut it down, Wedekind secured a Supreme Court injunction that allowed the production to proceed, but audiences were not attracted and it closed after just one performance). A musical version opened off-Broadway in May 2006, transferred to Broadway in December 2006 and was nominated for 11 Tony Awards, winning eight.


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