“Never have I been so genuinely moved by a DST production…

Never have I been so genuinely moved by a DST production. DULOG masterfully presents ‘Spring Awakening’, a hauntingly tragic, yet beautiful musical by Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik. It explores an array of deeply troubling issues from teenage suicide to abortion, and these challenging topics are presented with the utmost delicacy and nuance. Directors (Jacob Vellucci and Amy Shelmerdine, assisted by Emma Race) can’t be faulted; they manage to toe the line between creating thought-provoking art and capturing any moments of humour that help the audience to be able to deal with such compelling topics. This is one of the hardest productions to bring justice to, and without doubt, the entire creative team excelled through every vision.

The most impressive aspect of the production was the sensitivity of scenes of intimacy. It was evident that so much care had gone into making each performer feel comfortable, and every interaction on that stage felt so believable. The musical directors (Daniel Hicks and Tom Klafkowski) must have worked tirelessly, as the band sounded so crisp and refined. All the harmonies were bliss to listen to, and the confidence of all performers demonstrated how they loved what they were singing. Movement director (Xanthe Gibson) deservers incredible recognition – all the movement felt intentional, and was linked to the dark undertones of the show, which provided another aspect of introspection for the audience to consider. At the end of the first act I had to remind myself that these are students and not professionals. Everyone involved should feel immense pride.  

The lighting was dynamic, fitting and helped capture the moments of tension, especially in scenes that were not heavily reliant on dialogue. The lighting team (Theo Nellis and Noella Nunes) should be commended for aiding such creative storytelling. At times, I felt that the spotlight was overly relied on, as it sometimes distracted from the more intimate setting of the two person scenes. However, production manager Tim Millard, assisted by Maisie Donohue, succeeded in constructing a set that was purposeful, and displayed minute details that were definitely appreciated. The costumes were faultless, especially the school uniforms which made the show feel even more believable. The directors utilised the stage space so effectively, although, moments of pauses sometimes felt too long, leading to dialogue becoming slightly stilted. The creative and production team created something special, and it was clear how much collaborative effort went into it.

Each performer on that stage brought so much life and truth to their role that the Assembly Rooms felt electric tonight, with so much passion and versatility to witness. Without a doubt, George Cass as Melchior leads the cast with charm, stellar vocals and a genuine affection for the show. His chemistry with Alexandra Tyler’s Wendla was second to none, and together they both brought pure emotion to what appear to be very taxing roles. Alexander Tyler was a standout actress, with a silky-smooth voice and intricate facial expressions that made the audience feel a connection to her from the beginning. Every time they sang together I would get chills, and their performance of ‘The Word of Your Body’ was nothing short of memorizing. Rory Maguire, who played Moritz, brought such dimension to his role. His playful nature made him relatable to the audience, and his powerful voice echoed the auditorium. Maguire’s performance of ‘Don’t Do Sadness’ provoked such raw emotion that I cried throughout many of his Act Two performances, as they felt so authentic. Likewise, Rhyen Hunt’s Martha and Misha Joshi’s Ilse brought so much grit to the show, my favourite number being ‘The Dark I Know Well’ which was executed perfectly.

Without much-needed comedic relief, the production could have felt too heavy. Thankfully, Haschen (Jo Price) and Ernst (Damola Amusa) were there to bring moments of laughter, displaying that while ignorance can cause much pain, it can be quite funny to witness. Their brief but often innuendo-inducing moments were my personal highlights of the show, and Damola’s backflip featured in ‘Totally Fucked’ was very impressive. Other standout performances were provided by Otto (Eli Fuller) and Georg (Charlie McKie) who brought determination and energy to every movement. Francesca Horgon, Hannah James and Isabelle Evans understood their characters fully, and their reactions were thoroughly entertaining. Harry Alderidge and Jessica Bell were casted perfectly, both bringing authority and wit to their many diverse roles. Special credit must be given to how well each performer presented their experience of grief and conflict, which was touching.

Overall, ‘Spring Awakening’ was a privilege to witness, bringing crucial awareness to often taboo topics, and raising money for the incredible Wear Valley Women’s aid. The topical message of the production acts as a symbolic representation of struggles still faced today. It’s a great reminder to look out for one another, which is a great message for our community.

By Niamh Williams

Spring Awakening will continue to run in the Sir Thomas Allen Assembly Rooms Theatre at 19:30 from Thursday the 23rd November to Saturday the 25th November, as well as a 14:30 Matinee on the Saturday.

Photo Credits: DULOG