Amy Shelmerdine:

Directing on Spring Awakening with my best friend has been the highlight of my DST career so far. This musical has been my favourite show for years, so to have the opportunity to direct it is a dream, especially as I have met the most incredible and talented people through it. The show is so beautiful, and addresses so many key themes that are just as relevant today as they were in 1890s Germany; parental pressure, sexual assault and abuse, consent, sexuality and mental health. A musical that deals with these themes so openly has not been done in the last three years, and it has truly been an honour to bring this, in what I hope is an authentic manner, to the Assembly Rooms stage. What I love about this show is the versatility it provides; upbeat rock numbers are contrasted with emotionally intense scenes, comic scenes are contrasted with ballads. There is something in this show for everyone, and as a director, sinking myself into this process has been so rewarding. Getting to watch my favourite numbers such as “Don’t Do Sadness” and “Those You’ve Known” come to life before us has been a joy and I couldn’t have asked for a better co-director to do this with. The process has been challenging but truly so fulfilling. It has pushed me as a director and I am so grateful for that. Our cast have dealt with incredibly emotionally taxing and vulnerable scenes with the utmost professionalism, and have pushed their capabilities to the limit to create an absolutely jaw-dropping and authentic performance of how societal repression affects these teenagers. A special mention must go to our incredible leading trio – George Cass, Alexandra Tyler and Rory Macguire – who continually perform incredibly intimate and emotional scenes on stage with such integrity; your commitment to the process and your roles have been second to none and we are so proud of you. 

I have cried many times in rehearsals watching their beautiful performances, and am overwhelmed with pride when I think back to our first read through; watching the whole cast’s performances develop, mature and grow over the term has been a pleasure.  I am beyond excited for the audience to see them on stage. 

Moreover, watching myself and Jacob’s creative vision come to life has been so much fun. We were extremely keen on juxtaposing the scenes, emphasising the societal repression that these teenagers must exist in, with the rock score creating an almost concert-like atmosphere to highlight their inner struggles.  Every teenager has a different experience growing up, and we felt it important to highlight them all, not just those of the main characters. I think everyone can relate to at least one character in part, and I hope this production provides solace to everyone who does to know they are not alone. With minimal set, blackouts, and handheld mics, I cannot wait for the audience to see this dynamic rock score come to life on stage. This could not have been achieved without our amazing production manager Tim Millard, our musical directors Daniel Hicks and Tom Klafkowski, and movement director Xanthe Gibson, who have jumped aboard our vision and run with it. We are so grateful for all the work you have put in; this show would not be the same without you all. 

Thank you so much to our wonderful cast, production and creative team who have made this a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I am so proud of what we have been able to achieve. Thank you to everyone to has come to watch, and we hope you enjoy this show as much as we have enjoyed creating it.

Jacob Vellucci:

When I was offered to co-director Spring Awakening I was elated, because I was able to direct something that is so relevant in the modern day. Spring Awakening, although set in 19th-century Germany, is a musical whose themes transcend time. Themes as hard-hitting as these need a cast that takes them on professionally with empathy, time and thoughtfulness. The cast of this show has been outstanding. The talent we have in this cast is amazing and sometimes I must remind myself they are not professionals but students! Each one has created a full character with intention and truth behind each line and I cannot wait for you to see this on stage. There is something in this show for everyone, and as a director, sinking myself into this process has been so rewarding. I have got to see some of my favourite musical numbers, “The Dark I Know Well” and “Bitch of Living” come to life with my creative vision at the forefront of the process. It has been so rewarding to see the cast take on our notes and vision with excitement and critique, allowing us to create a dynamic and collaborative working environment to create a piece of theatre we are all so proud of! 

Directing this show with Amy has been one of the core memories of my Durham experience. With us both in our final years now, we have been able to use years of built-up skills to collaborate with our creative visions. Our many late nights together planning, blocking and organising costumes have paid off, and I could not have asked for a better co-director to have worked with. She works like a professional director for the West End and I am so impressed with her commitment and dedication to every project and role she takes on. Special mentions must also go to our wonderful assistant director Emma, the movement director Xanthe, and our AMAZING production manager Tim. All have worked so hard on this project, spending hours in rehearsals or the theatre, creating a piece of professional drama for the AR stage. 

I want the audience to come away having thought about something critically. This show is meant to make you feel angry and aware of modern-day issues. So with that, I invite you to watch the collection of teenage angst, sadness, elation and dreams that is Spring Awakening. Please enjoy! x

Spring Awakening will show in the Sir Thomas Allen Assembly Rooms Theatre on Wednesday 22nd November to Saturday the 25th of November at 19:30 with a matinee performance on Saturday the 25th at 14:30

Photo Credits: DULOG