Skip to content


Spring Awakening
Published on Thursday, 19 May 2011

4.5 stars

Sallis Benney Theatre (venue website)
17-20 May, 7:30pm-10:00pm
Reviewed by Catherine Meek

 Suitable for age 15+ only.
 Warning: Contains flashing lights.
 Warning: Contains strong language and nudity.

West Sussex County Youth Theatre rocks! Performing to standing ovation last night, they showcased teenage talent in Steven Sater’s award-winning musical – doing him proud, along with everyone either involved or supporting this company’s continuance. 

In a superlative start to the show, Lizzie Jay as Wendla no doubt has X Factor potential (although according to the programme, she intends to read history). She sings with pure beauty, and is confident in her role as naive daughter doubting the stork story – and as Melchior’s “bruise”. In the face of new feelings for Wendla, his childhood friend, Morgan Kemeys had to work harder as Melchior; but he relaxed as the show went on, his performance growing better for it. All of the performers in this 27-strong cast did a sterling job and surely must have a future in theatre, deserving every bit of the jubilant applause they received.

When first performed in Germany in 1906, Wedekind’s play provoked outrage for daring to address on stage the confusing-yet-taboo world of teenage angst. Still relatively unexplored, the theme is universal, and even to a receptive 21st-century audience the play is both relevant and revelatory in its message. In their wisdom, adult guardians of society’s next generation often encourage repression of their children’s never-before-experienced longing. This show replaces a focus on the cerebral, on education and exams, for a public performance of naive sexuality… an outpouring often reserved for a secret diary, or finally released in public shame when it results in an accidental pregnancy.

Interestingly, the set and clobber are Victorian-style. This works very well both to highlight the conflict which exists between external propriety and inner world, and to create a spectacular and very watchable show. Who knows if it also helps the young actors recreate their own experience of angst – rid of the fashions they choose on a day-to-day basis, another mask of what lies beneath. With these costumes, and on a stage representing the cathedral arches of a posh school, there are surprisingly few props: a series of low ‘coffee tables’ made of blackboard are put to multifarious, effective uses – a tree chalked up, a coffin, a gravestone – and all moved at the change of a scene by the cast themselves, with ease.

Mention must also be made of the wonderful band, who are no less prominent for being screened off in the gallery.  All in all this show succeeds in every way in its interpretation of the world of repressed sexuality, and whilst it can be difficult to know what to choose at Festival time, a punt on this show will not be wasted.

<< Three Stars   Festen by David Eldridge >>