REVIEW: Spring Awakening, the Nuffield

Daily Echo: A scene from Spring Awakening A scene from Spring Awakening

FRANK Wedekind’s controversial play, first performed in 1906, focused on adolescent sexuality, rape and suicide.

This modern adaptation, by Anya Reiss, retains the original themes and adds the pervasive internet, social media, and cyber-bullying.

In an utterly compelling one hour and forty minutes without a break, eight versatile and convincing young actors play a variety of characters including school students, their teachers and their parents.

As the naive and damaged Wendla, Aoife Duffin is mesmeric.

Playing both the teenage masturbator Hans, and the pedantic head teacher, Ekow Quartey inserts some much-needed comic relief.

The play explodes into action on an imaginative set resembling a school playground with its swings and innocent toys, the backdrop effectively utilised as a video screen.

The pacy narrative includes teenage angst, male and female masturbation, homosexuality and generational bitterness.

As the tone darkens with violence, rape, pregnancy, and suicide, stunningly dramatic use is made of lighting, sound and video projection.

The original Wedekind drama explored repressive 19th-century sexual values; this contemporary version examines our modern 21stcentury world where teenagers are more sexually aware but perhaps not better informed; where we are told everything yet we know nothing.

The ubiquitous internet has not dispelled loneliness, despair and suicide, but has rather increased selfishness, narcissism and misguided power.

This is a riveting and thought-provoking play, produced by the Nuffield in conjunction with Headlong theatre company and West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Spring Awakening runs until April 5.

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