Wellington Performing Arts Centre, Wellington
06/06/2008 - 08/06/2008
The first 08 production of Long Cloud Youth Theatre will be the controversial masterpiece Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind. The twelve young talented actors of the company will perform this play about teenage self-discovery at the theatre of Wellington Performing Arts Centre from June 6 until June 8. Abortion, homosexuality, rape, masturbation, sadism and suicide; Spring Awakening reveals the soul of a teenager with a most gripping touch showcasing its joys and sorrows, its hopes and despair, its struggles and tragedies.
Spring Awakening reveals the soul of a teenager with a most gripping touch; showcasing its joys and sorrows, its hopes and despair, its struggles and tragedies. The play is one of literature’s most controversial masterpieces – a work so daring in its depiction of teenage self-discovery, it was banned from the stage and not performed in its complete form in English for nearly 100 years. Wedekind’s references to abortion, homosexuality, rape, masturbation, sadism and so on made the play so scandalous that, although censored versions played long and successful seasons in Germany during his lifetime, the full play wasn’t performed on the British stage until 1974.
Spring Awakening is set in a provincial town in 1890s Germany, and is a full-frontal attack on life-hating bourgeois hypocrisy and ignorance. For all the specifics of its time and place, its portrayal of the amoral innocence of adolescent sexuality in collision with repressive authority still resonates with surprising force. When Destiny Church is preaching an anti-gay agenda, when New Zealand has the highest suicide rates amongst youngsters, when US educationalists claim that chastity-led sex education is the way to go, when Amnesty International is condemned by church authorities for supporting abortions for raped women, the idea of "progress" in these issues comes under question. We are more like the 19th century than we care to admit.
Spring Awakening concerns a group of fourteen year old boys and girls, all of them feeling the first stirrings of sexual desire. Their confusions and, finally, their tragedies stem from the wilful ignorance in which they are kept by their parents and other authorities: the awakening of their bodies drives them to actions they do not understand, and that often bewilders and frightens them.
In the case of Melchior his discovery of the facts of life – through observing dogs and fragmentary reading – leads to a comprehensive disillusion and atheism. His friend Moritz is terrified and ashamed even of his dreams, and for him sex is a horror that can only be escaped through an even more driven obsession with death.
The girls are equally trapped in their own ignorance. Wendla is caught between childhood and burgeoning womanhood; she is desperate to know where her sister’s babies come from, but is kept in such ignorance by her mother’s explanations that her innocence is impenetrable, even when she is raped.
Long Cloud Youth Theatre, run by Wellington Performing Arts Centre, is a unique training and production company for young people aged 16-20 years. The Company gives young actors the means to enhance their theatrical skills through practical performance experience and the opportunity to work with Wellington’s foremost theatrical directors and tutors. The program is led by award winning teacher and director Willem Wassenaar.
Wellington Performing Arts Centre, 36 Vivian St
June 6 & 7 @ 7.30pm
June 8 @ 3pm & 7.30pm
PH: 04 385 8033 or EMAIL: email@example.com
Mrs Bergman: ALI LAY-CARLYLE
Wendla Bergman: TAMARA JONES
Ina Muller: EMERALD NAULDER
Mr Gabor: MICHAEL TRIGG
Mrs Gabor: ALLY GARRETT
Melchior: JACK BUCHANAN
Rentier Stiefel: MICHAEL TRIGG
Moritz Stiefel: BEN CRAWFORD
Otto: MICHAEL TRIGG
Georg LEON WADHAM
Robert: LEON WADHAM
Ernst WILLIAM DONALDSON
Lammermeier: MICHAEL TRIGG
Hanschen Rilow: RICHARD CHILD
Thea: ALI LAY-CARLYLE
Martha: SASKIA RUTHERFORD YMKER
Ilse: NICOLE STEVEN
Rektor Sunstroke: EMERALD NAULDER
Calflove: NICOLE STEVEN
Thickstick: SASKIA RUTHERFORD YMKER
Stickytongue: WILLIAM DONALDSON
Bonebreaker: ALI LAY-CARLYLE
Flykiller: ALLY GARRETT
Catchmequick: RICHARD CHILD
Pastor Skinnytum: LEON WADHAM
Friend Goatmilker ALI LAY-CARLYLE
Uncle Provost: ALLY GARRETT
Diethelm: WILLIAM DONALDSON
Reinhold: RICHARD CHILD
Ruprecht: MICHAEL TRIGG
Helmuth: LEON WADHAM
Gaston: WILLIAM DONALDSON
Dr Procrustes: ALI LAY-CARLYLE
Locksmith: ALLY GARRETT
Dr Fizzpowder: SASKIA RUTHERFORD YMKER
A Man in a Mask: LEON WADHAM
Directing assistant: SHARON VAN DER VREEDE
Production manager and design assistant: SHARON VAN DER VREEDE
Lighting design: DANIEL WILLIAMS & PAUL TOZER
Sound design: WILLEM WASSENAAR
Costume construction: SHAY EVANS
LX and SX Operator: PAUL TOZER
Producer: JENNY STEVENSON
Publicist: RICHARD STEVENSON
Publicity photos: DANIEL WILLIAMS
2 hrs 30 mins, incl. interval
Well performed and directed
Review by Lynn Freeman 13th Jun 2008
Spring Awakening is both a perfect choice of production for a cast of young actors, and a damned difficult one. Frank Wedekind looks into that inherent conflict of being a teenager – being treated as a child while having to face up to being an adult, burgeoning sexuality, excitement and despair.
It was so controversial that it was banned from the stage and it was almost 100 years before it was seen in its full form in English – we’re talking the 1970s.
What’s really extraordinary is that it feels like it could have been written today – covering as it does homosexuality, teenage suicide, masturbation, rape and abortion. The students are all 14 and stuck in a provincial town, their parents are either over protective or indifferent, their teachers are self-obsessed and uncaring.
The contemporary feel to this play is also largely due to Willem Wasenaar’s direction, which is ‘heightened’ to the point of caricature overall. It makes some scenes, like the ghastly teachers responding (or not) to a student’s suicide, an hilarious example of on-stage grotesqueness. Very, very funny and well performed and directed.
The downside is that we don’t feel that connected to the students and their individual tragedies and pain. This is a missed opportunity.
That said, the cast is fully committed to the production and their zest for it keeps the audience connected.
Great set – on real lawn, with the back of the stage one giant blackboard – both used to full effect.
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Timeless truths explored, exposed, questioned and celebrated
Review by John Smythe 07th Jun 2008
"I have just seen my friends do stuff I never want to see them do in real life," a shining-eyed 16 year-old girl says after the opening night. "That play is amazing. I’ll probably come again tomorrow."
Spring Awakening, written by German playwright Frank Wedekind in 1891, 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.
In a world controlled by moral authoritarian educators and fearfully ignorant parents, the ill-equipped teenagers have to deal with sex and sexuality, ‘self abuse’, physical (father-daughter) abuse, rape, pregnancy, abortion, fear of academic failure and suicide.
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.
Willem Wassenaar’s Long Cloud Youth Theatre production of Eric Bently’s English translation, designed by Daniel Williams, clothes the cast of 13 in striped private school blazers, white shorts, red ties and black shorts or skirts, and sets them on a vast lawn (actual Instant Lawn) backed by a huge ‘blackboard’ wall that is written and drawn on throughout. School desks and chairs begin in regimented ranks and get used creatively to suggest other settings.
For some of the under-trained voices the space is an acoustic challenge, especially when they talk fast with all the dramatic urgency of youth. But their intelligent understanding of the play and clear subjective connection with the substance of each scene ensures the play’s essence comes through. At times, however, the apparent need to speed things along for fear a modern young audience may not last past 2½ hours (including interval) means important dramatic moments are not quite given their due.
The ensemble work is excellent, the militarily precision of some sequences offering a strong contrast to the chaos raging within the minds and bodies of the central characters. The transitions from naturalistic authenticity to broad expressionism for the more absurdist scenes are also well handled, especially where the bigness is rooted in emotional truth. Where shallow comic send-up is allowed to prevail, the inherent ‘debate’ loses some of its strength.
A great deal hinges on the performances of the three central characters and Tamara Jones (Wendla Bergman), Jack Buchanan (Melchior) and Ben Crawford (Moritz Stiefel) make the questing experiences, excitements, fears and dilemmas of their characters very real and compelling. In the support roles Ally Garret’s Mrs Gabor (Melchior’s mum) and Leon Wadham’s Man in a Mask deserve special mention.
But it’s the group effort that stands out most. I’ve seen turgid productions of Spring Awakening in the past and the fact that this company’s audience of peers, on opening night, were so hugely responsive proves they found the comedy and held their attention by exploring, exposing, questioning and celebrating the timeless truths immortalised in this extraordinary classic.
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