WORDS BY BIANKA FARMAKIS
Charming, captivating, brilliant – three terms I would not use to describe my own sexual awakening, but would definitely attach to MUSE’s production of the 19th Century German musical, Spring Awakening.
Spring Awakening takes the subject matter that no one really wants to talk about publicly, and exposes it, point blank, on a stage to spectators literally on the edge of their seats. Tastefully depicting sex, masturbation and all the complexities one’s sexual awakening encompasses, each ‘climatic’ moment was interspersed with explosive musical numbers.
It was difficult to pick a stand out performer among the cast, because, like the perfect portrait, or completed puzzle, not one person could be removed without breaking the brilliance of the image. Spring Awakening was filled with theatrics, drama and all things that typify a musical, yet refreshingly exempt of egos or performers competing for the spotlight. Sater’s characters each possessed their own personality, with enough interlacing of storylines to pass the Bechdel test and engage audiences all the way through. From the jovial sexual exploits to harrowing experiences, this cast showed a chemistry unparalleled to the MUSE productions before it, and truly did the production justice.
Miranda Middleton’s choreography was in every length expressive as it was executed with German-like military precision, each stomp, step and slide of the cast, articulating an angst to be heard and free. Though restricted in space, Middleton and James Wright’s stage was filled magical moments, with characters draped across the stage from the moment the audience walked in, to the illuminated surprise that created a truly breath taking moment. Special mention goes to the orchestra, who complemented the harmonious vocals of the rock musical superbly.
It’s difficult to fault Spring Awakening – initial skepticism of the use of Australian accents among the German context of the play were quelled by the eloquence of the cast. Often the strength of solos throughout the production were swallowed by the softness of their song, and the staging posed a constricting environment for characters to interact, but considering the consistent theme of repression and disillusionment, it worked on a metaphorical level (which is what theatre is all about right?).
But above all, the highest praise should be paid to director Laura Balboni. Carefully curating a complex musical riddled with dualities – innocence and corruption, expression and repression, pleasure and denial – Balboni achieves something rarely seen on the student stage – a production as authentic to the original material as it is unique in its own respect. Balboni presented confronting subject matter maturely, tackling uncomfortable topics of rape, abortion and domestic violence with tableau’s and scenes that evoked a devastating beauty and harrowing truth is each moment. And as dark as the musical had propensity to be, the clear unity of the cast harboured a strength and atmosphere of hope that permeated until the final bow.
Not that it’s an option, because the show is rightfully sold out, but if there’s one production that deserves an encore, it’s Spring Awakening.