As the sounds of My Chemical Romance and Evanescence filled the Stockwell Playhouse, I prepared myself for a foray into late nineteenth-century Germany. Spring Awakening follows the students of two neighbouring German schools (the girls’ school and the boys’ school) as they navigate issues like puberty, sex and sexuality, pregnancy, and abuse in a world where the adults are so terrified of these issues themselves, they refuse to guide the kids through them.

While the show focuses mostly on three characters – Wendla, Moritz and Melchior – it really needs a strong ensemble to bring it to life. Fortunately, the British Theatre Academy are up to the challenge. Every cast member gives an impressive, high-energy performance. The Academy choose to have a large ensemble and they absolutely could have filled a stage twice the size of the Stockwell Playhouse’s; the life the cast bring to the stage is electric. Matt Nicholson’s choreography is fantastic with a handful of gorgeous, standout images sprinkled throughout the show; most notable for me is ‘The Mirror-Blue Night’, a sequence where Max Harwood’s Melchoir descends through his fellow male students. The harmonies within the show are deliciously executed, which is an achievement in itself, because they are not easy to pin down.

The majority of the cast give tamer performances than I would have expected, though that isn’t to say they are unsatisfying portrayals. Harwood’s Melchior is surprisingly soft and innocent. Melchior’s rebellious, knowledgeable, disillusioned nature is lost somewhat in Harwood’s naivety. That being said, he gives a believable and textured performance and performs his songs with emotional gusto. I thirsted for James Knudsen to take Moritz’s inner turmoil a bit further. Sadie Hurst’s Martha lacks some of the force that is customary with her emotional number, ‘The Dark I Know Well’. However, Hurst more than makes up for that force with the vulnerability she brings to the role. And Charlotte Coe’s innocence as Wendla plays nicely against Harwood.

I was unsure at first of Dean Johnson’s directorial choice to make the adults so over-acted. But that scepticism fades by the third number; the caricatures that Joseph Heron and Lydia Tuffy deliver as Adult Male and Adult Female, respectively, further demonstrates the distance between the adults in this world and the teenagers. Their exaggerated presence makes them seem ridiculous and unreal, in a way that isolates and abandons the younger characters even more.

All in all, The British Theatre Academy are putting on a very worthwhile performance of Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik’s tortured brainchild of a show and while the run is short, the talent poured on that stage is immeasurable. Expect big things from this cast and the creatives behind them.

Spring Awakening played Stockwell Playhouse until 18 August 2018. For further information, click here.

Photo: Eliza Wilmott