Spring Awakening unites Douglas Maxwell, Grid Iron and Traverse
Frank Wedekind's attack on sexually-oppressive culture relocated from fin-de-siècle Germany to Calvinist Scotland
Boldly returning to Frank Wedekind’s original play in the wake of the enormous success of the Tony-winning musical Spring Awakening, Douglas Maxwell, together with Grid Iron and the Traverse, has created a fresh, creative and relevant new adaptation that keeps the action in its original fin-de-siècle moment, but moves it from Germany to Calvinist Scotland.
The action starts in the classroom, and the chalkboard motif established there is carried throughout the production with a number of imaginative little touches that bring a smile with their ingenuity while also clearly conveying a meaning: the outline of a coffin drawn on the stage becomes the centre of a powerful funeral scene, that of a bed the perimeter of temptation as a husky older woman tries to seduce a teenager.
Maxwell’s adaptation has captured the clumsy poetry of teenagers waxing lyrical about their hopes and dreams – and as ever in teenage life, the comic and the tragic rub up against each other with an unnerving closeness. Rather than dragging this story kicking and screaming into the present day (or filling it with oddly anachronistic and trite alt.rock anthems, for that matter), Maxwell and Grid Iron have left it kicking and screaming in its original context, well aware that the petulance and lust of adolescence never goes out of date. The language, while not exactly of the period, feels believable in the mouths of these teenagers from a time before teenagers officially existed, and leaves you wondering if, even now it has been given a name and prodded and studied, the transition from childhood to adulthood has got any easier.
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 13 Nov