Tag Archive | "Spring Awakening"

Tags: , , , , , ,

Review: Spring Awakening, West Yorkshire Playhouse

Posted on 12 March 2014 by Adam Bruce

Spring Awakening

The last time I saw Headlong Theatre Company a few months ago, they were presenting to the audience a wild and electric adaptation of George Orwell’s novel 1984, which was met with great acclaim. Headlong’s most recent production, in association with the West Yorkshire Playhouse and Nuffield Theatre Company, breathes new life into German playwright Frank Wedekind’s 1906 play Spring Awakening. The company and writer Anya Reiss have given the text a modern update, offering the audience a distorted and dark view into the misunderstood world of a generation of teenagers.

Spring Awakening traces the fragmented narratives of Wendla Bergmann and Moritz Stiefel, played by Aoife Duffin and Bradley Hall respectively, along with their friends. The story follows the characters and the decisions they make as they attempt to navigate a dark world, along with the events they encounter that change their lives forever.

Designer Colin Richmond’s simplistic set creates a shadowy and playful performance space for the actors in a sparse playground-esque space. It is, however, Headlong’s signature use of intense, dramatic lighting and sound that truly illuminates the set, the characters and the narrative. Headlong also makes use of live video and projections, which breathe yet more life into the narrative and pushes the thoughts, emotions and feelings of the characters right to the forefront of the production, while also adding a unique and engrossing design aesthetic. The sheer synchronicity between the razor-sharp, bright lights and the sonic soundtrack adds to this compelling aesthetic: it grabs your attention and doesn’t let go.

The company work incredibly well together, with the strength of the ensemble really shining through in certain places. The dialogue of the characters is naturalistic and honest, offering a somewhat distorted look into the realm of a misunderstood generation. Many of the characters are also dynamic even when not in their own scenes, remaining on stage to present the image of a living, breathing world, making the narrative and characters’ situations all the more real.

Spring Awakening ticks all the right boxes with regards to being a powerful piece of contemporary theatre: it engages you, comments on the world we live in today and gets you to think about your views on it. While I found the play’s style particularly enthralling, I can understand why some people may find it a little too intense. The play deals with some rather hard-hitting subject matters, and Headlong’s eclectic presentational style might not be to everyone’s taste.

If none of that puts you off, however, then I can guarantee that this new version of Spring Awakening is a dark, tongue-in-cheek, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride that will keep you thinking long after the final blackout.

Spring Awakening is playing at the West Yorkshire Playhouse until 22 March. For more information and tickets, see the West Yorkshire Playhouse website

Adam Bruce

Adam Bruce

Adam is currently studying Theatre Studies, English Language, English Literature and Media at Sixth Form College. He is a member of West Yorkshire Playhouse Youth Theatre. He enjoys Theatre and Music.

More Posts

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Review: Bare

Posted on 16 October 2013 by Jacob Sparrow


It is easy to draw comparisons between Bare and Spring Awakening: we have teen angst, underage sex, emotion through rock songs and neglected children unprepared for the cruel realities of life. Spring Awakening garnered commercial success for being a production that was brave and unique; it addressed the harsh subjects of abuse and suicide through an incredibly powerful and emotive score. Bare is an operetta that strives to do the same but falls short on many levels.

Bare received its UK premiere at the Union Theatre earlier this year and transferred to the Greenwich Theatre after a successful run. Having only been produced off-Broadway it has made its rounds in amateur and profit share productions across the US and Europe. It follows the coming-of-age story of a group of teenagers in a strict Catholic school, focusing on the relationship between closeted homosexual Peter and his secret lover Jason.

The main problem with Bare is that it tries to address serious issues in a clichéd and overly dramatic way. For example, it is difficult to have any empathy for a character outcast, with nowhere to turn and contemplating suicide, when they are singing a song that wouldn’t sound out of place in High School Musical. Everything seems sugar coated, and therefore just comes across as contrived – less raw emotion and more stroppy teenager.

The show was, however, particularly well cast. Will Burton, who works with David Grinrod across his major productions, has selected a youthful group of performers who were all incredibly talented and able to create an overall good sound as an ensemble. Especially impressive were both Michael Vinsen as the male lead Peter and Luke Baker as the love-torn Matt, both creating some genuinely nice moments on stage. At points the acting was perhaps not as dark or twisted as the storyline suggested and veered towards cliché, but a valiant effort was made.

It is difficult to pinpoint where Bare went wrong because it doesn’t seem to fit into any genre of musical theatre; it has the tragic storyline and brutal subject matter of musicals like Spring Awakening and Rent, but the libretto sounds as though it is trying to be far more commercial and mainstream. It feels like it cannot decide what it is.

Bare is playing at the Greenwich Theatre until 27 October. For more information and tickets, see the Greenwich Theatre website.

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Feature: OutFox Productions “We pick things that people can be passionate about”

Posted on 15 October 2013 by Olivia Luder

AYT catches up with OutFox productions as it prepares for its new show…


OutFox Productions returns to The Jack Studio Theatre, Brockley for its fourth production, this time performing Paul Zindel’s Pulitzer prize-winning The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds. As the cast gathered in the adjoining Brockley Jack pub, it was immediately clear that they have become a close bunch. With overrunning sentences, an abundance of laughs and an easy rapport, they chatted about family, dreams and the glimpses of hope within Paul Zindel’s play.

While the production may have created a cosy group, the play concerns relationships of a more destructive nature. Tilly Hunsdorfer lives with her abusive mother, Beatrice, and sister, Ruth, in a cramped house in the small town of Henrietta. Set in the early 1970s, the play sees Tilly strive to compete in the school science fair by monitoring mutations on marigolds that have been exposed to radiation. However, even as the prospect of scientific success looms, it is clear she will have to overcome the oppression of her volatile home environment.

“They live in this tiny house on top of each other, there’s a history of neglect and abuse and breakdowns and death and seizures,” Evelyn Campbell (Tilly) explains, setting the scene of the cluttered Hunsdorfer house (designed by Gina Rose Lee). “These really frightening things that pull them together – that’s what they’re clinging onto each other for.” It is Beatrice, the unhinged matriarch, who is the root of this trouble. “She just changes her mind – whatever suits her at the time,” says Sophie Doherty, who plays Beatrice, elaborating upon her instability. “It’s very volatile and scary to have a parent like that,” Katherine Rodden (Ruth) adds, before director Amy Gunn chipps in to agree: “If you’ve got no consistency, that’s so what you need – growing up, having a consistent environment. To have that shakiness just sets everything else [off].”

In spite of Beatrice’s unbalanced outlook, she dreams of opening a teashop and Doherty wonders at the audience’s hopes for the character: “It’s interesting to know whether they think she will open that teashop […] are they going to go ‘of course – never going to happen!’”. The hopeless yearning of many who encounter the play is in Rodden’s wistful reply: “You so want her to though, don’t you?”

evelyn-campbell-as-tillieOften denied a voice by Beatrice, it is in pre-recorded monologues that Tilly’s character breaks free, talking of her fascination with atoms. At school, she has a supporter in her teacher, Mr. Goodman, and applies herself to the project with a focus sorely lacking in Beatrice. However, Gunn points out that despite the play’s preoccupation with Tilly’s project, “it’s still about the family dynamics and how they react to [Tilly’s science project] – this is just one little chapter in their lives and yet it has created this whole huge reaction.”

While it is family that represses and limits the characters in the play, it is equally family that the characters are repeatedly drawn back to. As Tilly attempts to seek refuge in her science project, she is pulled between reaching for her dreams and the struggles of her life with Ruth and Beatrice. “It’s not that [the science fair] changes anything, that’s the sadness of it: it has no bearing on it.” Gunn sighs: “We maybe hope that Tilly will go off and do something marvellous and be a scientist and go to university but…” “…We just don’t know…” Campbell finishes. Doherty expresses a more optimistic view: “She’s going places, this girl. I want the audience to go ‘there is hope here’.”

“Exactly, because you go ‘there’s potential and it’s being squashed’ and that’s horrible to see, something beautiful is growing out of the mundane and the banal,” Gunn continues, receiving a chorus of “Like the marigolds!” in reply, the parallel quickly and cheerfully being drawn. The play has an all-female cast and interestingly, OutFox’s production continues this backstage with a mostly female crew. Though the cast agree that the play shouldn’t be defined by this fact, Doherty nevertheless expresses her enjoyment of the experience: “it has been an amazing thing in the rehearsal room over the last three weeks because we’ve all kind of really bonded, we’ve all become very close and we laugh a lot [...] I think that has completely seeped into the performances and characters because we are so comfortable with each other that we can be braver than we would be if there were men around.”

Set in the early 70s, Campbell points out that the time period “…sets their limitations [...] They are women limited by their times.” Clare Almond (Nanny) expands on this, explaining that, “although we had the start in the wider world of the feminist revolution [in the early 70s], it had not reached them in any sense at all. Either [Zindel] was looking forward to what might happen to women in the future or he was just quite simply, you know: ‘here’s a whole bunch of oddballs living out their lives in this tiny place where they probably don’t belong’ [...] that geographical context and wider social context – the way things were starting to change – I think makes a great strength in the play.”

With Wedekind’s Spring Awakening as its well-reviewed debut production and an adaptation of Hitchcock’s Rope in its repertoire, OutFox has a reputation for facing challenging theatre head on. The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds is no exception. Producer and OutFox co-founder, John Fricker, emphatically explains the link between the show choices: “We pick things that people can be passionate about and it’s the passion of everybody in the team – actors, backstage – that’s the reason that we do the work that we do: if people are not passionate about a project, then we don’t take it on.”

“Fringe theatre is something that happens a lot, but good fringe theatre is not something that happens a lot,” Grace Lyons Hudson (Janice) enthuses, drawing on Fricker’s explanation, “this has been an experience that has only made me realise that a passion for theatre, a passion for drama is so important and it can flourish and make you more confident and make something beautiful.”

Fricker concludes by picking up on a deeper significance in Lyons Hudson’s words: “I think the story parallels really nicely with that passion for theatre and passion for drama: it’s Tilly’s passion for science, it’s whatever your passion is, go for it!”

The next venture for OutFox is Corpus Christi at The Place, 26 November – 14 December. 


Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Gruesome Playground Injuries at The Gate

Posted on 03 February 2013 by Ellen Carr

Justin Audibert in Gruesome Playground Injuries rehearsals by Ludovic des Cognets

The UK premiere of Pulitzer Prize finalist Rajiv Joseph’s Gruesome Playground Injuries is being staged at The Gate until 16 February. Mariah Gale and Felix Scott’s performances have already been highly praised in this intense 80-minute two-hander, described variously as a “crazily watchable anti-rom com” and “a fiercely honest story of modern America”. I chatted to Leverhulme Bursary-winning Director Justin Audibert about working on the show, his advice for young directors and what the future might hold.

Let me say now that the answer to that last point involves discussing the sex lives of the over 65s; a statement which I hope goes some way to demonstrate Audibert’s lively character and that he’s an interesting director. Trained on the Theatre Directing MFA at Birkbeck University, this 31 year-old has got his foot firmly in the door. He is Resident Director at the National Theatre Studio, holder of the 2012 Leverhulme Award, Associate Director at the Finborough and an education practitioner for the RSC and Told By An Idiot. So it’s no surprise he’s been heralded as “one to watch” on the back of this recent production.

Audibert is drawn to plays that “question why human beings do the things that they do”, and sees all art as a great reflector of the choices of humanity. He looks for writers who “create dialogue that has something to it, a wit or a character”. Upon first read of Gruesome Playground Injuries he was impressed by the sharpness of the writing and the way it “zings off the page”. He was also excited by the challenge of having to show the two characters moving from age eight to 38. A lot of rehearsal was spent “filling in the blanks” of their relationship between the ages, work that manifests itself in the show’s transitions.

In Audibert’s words this play is “a time hopping dysfunctional love story between two damaged people”. The rehearsal process was spent untangling this love story, and examining the nature of pain. Audibert describes himself as a text-based director, taking a Stanislavskian approach of discerning character’s objectives and obstacles and “looking for the clues with the actors in the text”. He learnt from Katie Mitchell’s book The Director’s Craft to seek the events in each scene – events that make everything shift for the characters. Working in this way he and the cast “made a set of choices that gave us an agreed set of parameters through which we were going to tell the story”.

He describes being a director as having “a desire to tell stories clearly”; it is the director’s job to coach the actors “so they feel as confident, happy and committed as they possibly can while they’re on stage, and have a clear sense of why they’re telling this story”. The big questions Audibert identified in Gruesome Playground Injuries are “why do we sometimes have relationships that are bad for us, and why do we love people that are damaged?” To help explore these in rehearsal he worked with movement director Joe Wild. Looking at the physical signifiers of age, and also of pain and injury, was combined with the focused text work. One of the major questions examined movement-wise was “the difference between pain in an immediate sense and long term decay”.

It’s certainly not an easy subject to work with, but Audibert explains how the rehearsal room always maintained a fun atmosphere: “anytime we got a bit stressed we’d play a game, run around the room like idiots or eat cake”. He speaks fondly of the process of working with his entire team, and says the show wouldn’t be what it is without the input of all involved. Lily Arnold’s design, for example, hugely influenced the acting and choices made. Audibert has a very clear understanding of the director as collaborator, as the facilitator of “a dialogue between artists” and shares the following piece of advice about his craft: “Mostly directing is about speaking the different languages of the people you work with accurately… If you do that, you have a happy team and a happy team makes good work.”

Another major piece of advice he offers young directors is “ don’t get yourself in financial debt to work” and “there’s no such thing as a big break, you just have to keep working at it”, which is wonderfully refreshing to hear. Reading this advice, you may pin Audibert down as a sensible, non-risk taking director. You’d be wrong. His dream production to direct is “a version of Spring Awakening set in an old people’s home with all OAPs”. Why? Because it’s a play that touches him every time he reads it, and “nobody talks about the sex lives of people over 65”. A very valid point and I agree with him that it would be a fascinating process where a young director could learn a lot. He also wants to direct King Lear, seeing it as the “greatest parable of humanity of them all”.

Gruesome Playground Injuries plays at The Gate until 16 February. For tickets and more information, visit

Image credit: Justin Audibert in rehearsals for Gruesome Playground Injuries by Ludovic des Cognets

Ellen Carr

Ellen Carr

Ellen is Artistic Director of Witness Theatre, a company she established after graduating from the University of Sussex in 2011. Ellen writes, directs and produces for Witness Theatre and spends the rest of her time doing more writing. She is currently writing her own blog witnesstoexperience daily, contributes regular features to One Stop Arts and can also be found writing the occasional screenplay.

More Posts - Website

Comments (0)

Advertise Here
Advertise Here

Join our E-Newsletter

Exclusive offers, opportunities and updates from AYT.