Home Arts & Lit Overwhelming and exhilarating: Shotgun’s Spring Awakening

Overwhelming and exhilarating: Shotgun’s Spring Awakening


Ricky Freelove reviews Shotgun Theatre’s adaptation of Spring Awakening at the Phoenix on the 21st Jan.

Image Credits: Shotgun Theatre
Image Credits: Shotgun Theatre

‘Spring Awakening’ is a tragicomedy rock musical and covers a wide variety of social taboos including scenes of masturbation, flagellation and a backstreet abortion. The show presents the struggles of adolescence and coming of age; it is ribald, provocative and at times exceptionally uncomfortable to watch. Shotgun Theatre’s adaptation of Wedekind’s 1891 play was staged emotively and passionately, leaving the audience exhausted by the end, and in awe of the company’s raw talent.

Genevieve Skehan, the director of the show, made great use of the intimate space available at the Exeter Phoenix, especially with the live band occupying the majority of the stage. The modest set added to the intimacy of the show as full attention was paid directly towards the performers throughout.

The cast was exceptionally tight and unified throughout the show, especially when performing the song ‘I Believe’, where four-part harmonies reverberated and resonated around the space, completely dominating the room and engulfing the audience.

There were a couple of technical hitches with microphones and amplifier feedback, but apart from this, the majority of the show was first-class.

As to be expected, it was the leads Hannah Bloom and Jonathan Leigh who stole the show. Bloom played the young, naïve and innocent Wendla, who embarks on a disastrous relationship with Melchior. Melchior, a young intellectual and wayward hunk was portrayed excellently by Jonathan Leigh.

The chemistry on stage between the two was superb and both were comfortable with some compromising scenes. Leigh’s voice was exceptional throughout; it was warm, crisp and genuinely lovely to listen to. Likewise, Bloom put on a stellar performance, which would not be amiss in the West End. There were also some individuals from the cast who particularly stood out in the show too, including Matt Holmquist (Georg), whose deep and controlled voice offered some wonderful harmonies. Similarly, Devon Amber (Ilse) demonstrated a powerful diva-like voice whose solos were received well by the audience.

However, the most beautiful scene of Shotgun’s interpretation of ‘Spring Awakening’ came from Will Rushworth (Hanschen) and Adam Dolan (Earnst) whose characters opened up about their homosexual feelings towards one another whilst performing the duet ‘The Word Of Your Body (Reprise)’. It was tenderly and elegantly staged and was a lovely uplifting moment which was captured magnificently by the pair.

Shotgun Theatre’s adaption of Wedekind’s ‘Spring Awakening’ was overwhelming, exhilarating and absolutely fantastic. The phrase ‘emotional journey’ has never been more appropriate as I left the theatre dumbfounded and in need of a calming sit down.

Ricky Freelove, Arts Editor

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