Shotgun Theatre’s performance of Spring Awakening is nothing short of overflowing with talent, and I feel genuinely privileged to have seen it. Set in 1890s Germany, Spring Awakening is a rock musical which tells the story of a group of schoolchildren as they encounter life’s hurdles on their journey into adulthood, from wet dreams to even wetter love letters.
From the choreography to the set design, every element of this production screams precision and attention to detail. Jacob Hutching’s direction is controlled yet hilarious, and he has a definitive talent for creating a sense of space and location on the minimalist stage of Kay House. He works seamlessly with Hannah Simonds, the production’s movement director, to create an effortlessly cohesive flow of storytelling which brings character and choreography together as if they were never separated.
definitive talent for creating a sense of space and location on the minimalist stage
‘Bitch of a Living’ was a particular highlight for me, as the angsty uniformed schoolboys stomped around the stage. The amount of work that went into both the audio and visual sides of the song paid off massively: namely the pitch-perfect harmonies and creative use of staging. This is a production unsatisfied with taking the easy route when creating any scene. The only slightly misjudged note in the performance that I could identify was the number with the LEDs, which looked interesting at first but became gimmicky by the time the end of the song was reached.
It feels as if Macauley Keeper could not have been cast more perfectly as Melchior Gabor, and his blending of youthful uncertainty and plucky spirit is beautifully fitting with the story’s themes of maturity and coming-of-age difficulties. Chad St Louis’ vocal talent is the icing on the cake of his already stellar performance, and his deeply moving portrayal of Moritz Stiefel is without fault, particularly his monologue. Both Keeper and St Louis deserve the highest praises for their performances.
Macauley Keeper could not have been cast more perfectly as Melchior Gabor
Alongside them, Kathryn Pridgeon’s talent as a character actor shines and every role she plays is delivered perfectly, down to the syllable. One moment with Pridgeon’s ‘Fraulein Großebüstenhalter’ in particular had me in stitches. Charlie Howard must also be commended for his range, and while I was initially worried that he was chewing the scenery slightly with his headmaster character, the scenes with Pridgeon and Howard alone together changed my mind completely.
Finally, Lizzie Connick’s performance in the final scene of the play left me speechless, and in my opinion was the emotional moment that hit home most resoundingly.
The play handled difficult topics with delicacy and purpose in this performance
The play handled difficult topics with delicacy and purpose in this performance, and the actors clearly knew when the laughs had to end to allow the more serious themes to shine through. A special mention has to go to Alex O’Loughlin and Tom Dean for their exceptional performance in their shared scene, which was handled both maturely and effectively.
Even the technical aspects of this performance have few negatives to pick up on. Ryan Mulgrew produced a faultless performance as musical director, capturing well the grungy rock aesthetic of the play. The use of dramatic lighting cues was also put to great effect throughout, which was a pleasant surprise considering the minimal setup used by the production team. Costuming was also an element I did not expect to be mentioning in this review, but the sourcing of the schoolgirls’ dresses was a particular highlight from the costuming team.
In the landscape of student theatre at Exeter, this is certainly one to remember.
As a performance, it was aware of its tone at all times and you will be amazed at how every member of the cast manages to hit the emotional and comedic beats with professional precision. I struggle to remember when I last saw such a well-deserved standing ovation.