Theatre review: Spring Awakening; Teviot Debating Hall

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IT WASN’T so long ago that Double Edge – the theatre face of Eton College – came to town for a run through Frank Wedekind’s provocative late 19th century German drama.

Unlike the toffs’ adaptation, however, Edinburgh University Theatre Company has gone for something distinctly more left-of-centre. For in order to convey the controversial subjects within Wedekind’s “child tragedy” – everything from rape, suicide and abortion to homosexuality, puberty and abuse is covered – the producers utilise elements of Dada, the avant garde and the surreal to tell what is already a complex story regardless of experimental innovation methods.

It all starts off with a group of teenagers running around the hall like a bunch of idiots (the carefree, innocence of youth we presume), while punters – the atrocious weather and a lack of advertising assured the audience comprised of only proud friends and other such curious students – found their seats. Then, two members of the male cast presented a game of I Dare You, which involved “egg roulette”, kissing another male member of the audience, and, well, sticking one’s head into a bowl of water. Wasn’t Fresher’s Week a fortnight ago?

To those familiar with Wedekind’s play, the story is primarily focused on teenagers Wendla, Melchior and Moritz as they get caught up in the problems of understanding the harsh realities of life. Unfortunately, the more traditional narrative is oblivious here, even to the most intuitive among us. As for the students spectating meanwhile? Why, it was merely just a mixture of bemusement and cheap laughs.

To their credit, the company’s actors aren’t lacking in confidence – one or two may actually go on to 
become a professional actor, or even a Tory MP – and their attempts to interact with the audience connected on one level at least.

Sadly, this series of abstract sketches leaves you with little interest in the characters’ fate, purely because they’re so aloof and unidentifiable. The controversial subjects are dealt with in a somewhat imaginary, hinted at way. And when things did come to an equally confusing, what-was-that-all-about end, you couldn’t help sigh (with relief) that it was all over.

Run ends Saturday

Rating: * *