Spring Awakening (A New Musical)

Sat 4th – Tue 7th August 2012

reviews

Claire Dalling

at 08:56 on 7th Aug 2012

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For most teenage performers, the words ‘stage kiss’ are enough to bring colour to the cheeks and a chill to the spine. But the cast of Captivate Drama’s ‘Spring Awakening’ are not like most teenage performers. Which is lucky, because a simple kiss is one of the tamer elements of a show that contains on-stage masturbation, loud orgasms, adolescent suicide and homosexual trysts. This production is as confident as the show is controversial, and definitely met this self-confessed musicals geek’s very high standards.

The Edinburgh Academy provided an excellent performance space, thoroughly utilised by director Sally Lyall. The sell-out audience – made up mainly of parents and friends of the cast – was confronted with a bare and provocative set: a single chair on a raised platform, metal scaffolding used as a climbing frame, a gilt mirror hanging from the ceiling. These were the first hints that, although the cast were students, the direction and production were decidedly professional. The audience’s attention was continually manipulated around the stage, and the sophisticated lighting that this required was faultlessly executed. And, for the most part, the acting and singing rose to the same standard. Apart from the odd muddled line, the dialogue was clear and pacey – yet nobody was afraid to take their time and allow for a dramatic pause or two.

Special mention must be paid to Rachel Flynn and Seimi Rowan, whose respective portrayals of doomed lovers Wendla and Melchior provided an impressive backbone to the piece. Flynn’s voice is ideally suited to musical theatre - the songs sat comfortably within her ideal range - giving her the freedom to bring extra expression to the numbers. She and Rowan were well supported by the rest of the ensemble, whose absolute focus throughout made up for the occasional flat note. However, everyone had a strange tendency of looking directly above the audience’s heads to the back of the auditorium. Although this may have helped to calm nerves and avoid distractions, the lack of eye contact made it slightly more difficult to engage with the characters. Constantly staring into middle distance may work contextually, but its continual use made the entire company seem somewhat aloof.

When I look down my scribbled notes from the show, the word that reappears most frequently is ‘maturity’, and it is for their bravery and professionalism that the cast really deserve to be commended. At the end of the day, Captivate Drama is a group of teenagers having fun performing with their friends, and their genuine chemistry and enthusiasm make this production truly special. Well done, guys, you certainly put a spring in my step.

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April Elisabeth Pierce

at 09:01 on 7th Aug 2012

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An excited, supportive audience teetered on the edges of raked seating in a large hall of The Edinburgh Academy -- an appropriate setting for this now-classic high school rock opera, which is one of three musicals being performed by Captivate Drama at the Fringe Festival. Jittery and festive, the mood of the show was as stomach-wrenchingly expectant as prom night. Set in 1891 Germany, 'Spring Awakening' is a coming of age story. The plot invokes a legion of teenage demons: forbidden lusts, insecurity, abuse, abortion, and suicide, to name only the most obvious motifs. With its veritable pupu platter of pubescent problems, the aim of the production was scandal and controversy, but the outcome was pure entertainment.

With a simple setting, plain costumes, electrifying scores and good use of blocking, the basic components of the evening left little to be desired. Climbing frames in the foreground and a semi-enclosed musical ensemble were used to add both height and depth to the audience’s line of vision. Although the overabundance of steam made the room feel slightly muggy, it also contributed to the palpable mystique of the hormone-laden environment. The director’s use of gesture was also excellent -- subtle at times, exaggerated at others.

Captivate’s 'Spring Awakening' is performed by a powerful chorus, but the effectiveness of the whole is unfortunately greater than the sum of its parts. As a group, the chorus is outstanding (showing appreciable angst in numbers like “Totally F*cked”, for instance), though individual voices sometimes failed to stay in key. Melancholic Melchior (Seimi Rowan) was all but overwhelmed by Wendla (Rachel Flynn), whose stunning, pitch-perfect performance outshone her peers by far. Both leads, however, did excellent emotive work, scuba diving into the dark waters of adolescence with appropriate aplomb. Several numbers delivered goosebumps and authentic emotion (“The Dark I Know Well” and “Don’t Do Sadness” are two outstanding examples). Other solos, however, lacked the enthusiasm and believability of mature musical performance.

The young cast of this ambitious musical ought to be commended for their brave efforts, which resulted in an arousing night of music and moodiness. Moments of genuine shock erupted at times from beneath the cautiously staged veneer -- an achievement to be noted. While 'Spring Awakening' struggled to approach the seriousness and interest of a seasoned musical, it was nonetheless a memorable show.

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Comments

Kelly Travers; 11th Aug 2012; 00:41:46

Loved this performance by Captivate Drama. More confidence,maturity and power in the vocals since the Easter production and ALL the cast should be so proud. May Purple Summer never end! x

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