A co-production between GRID IRON and THE TRAVERSE THEATRE COMPANY
29th Oct – 13th Nov 2010
“What’s the point in books if they don’t tell us the truth? What’s the point in schools if they don’t teach us what we want to know? All this education and absolutely no knowledge. So… please… tell me…”
Wendla just wants to feel something. She wants shorter skirts and frills on her nightgown. But most of all, Wendla wants to know! Why won’t anyone tell her?
Melchior knows more than he’s supposed to. To him, the euphemisms and the hypocrisy are ridiculous and insulting. But what he’s learned from books doesn’t prepare him for the power of his and Wendla’s freed desires.
Spring Awakening is a major European play. Since its first performance in Berlin in 1906, it has remained contentious in its portrayal of young people’s sexual relationships. Douglas Maxwell’s lean and dynamic version sets the play in turn of the century Scotland – a time when Calvinist culture ruled an education system beginning to be influenced by the freer movements of continental Europe.
A giant classroom becomes a metaphor for learning about life and death, channelling the extraordinary force of adolescent sexuality as it roars against the harsh and fearful restrictions imposed by the adult world.
Grid Iron make a fitting return to the conventional stage for this production in The Traverse, the theatre building where they launched the company back in 1996 with their first ever production, Clearance by Anita Sullivan.
“Grid Iron Theatre Company have joined forces with the Traverse theatre to create a brief, brutal and quite devastating new working of Frank Wedekind’s Spring Awakening… a vibrant, relevant production… Harrison has brought out a brilliant ensemble performance…This is still a stinging rebuke at the way children are treated… Most of all, however, it is a production that has much to say at this particular moment in time, when funding decisions are being made that will effect the depth of education for years, maybe generations, to come.”
“Director Ben Harrison may have located the action to a conventional theatre in this co-production with the Traverse, but Grid Iron’s site-specific hallmarks are very much in evidence in an expansively three-dimensional production.”
“Grid Iron’s production is both faithful to Wedekind and reflective in its interpretation of the drama he created. There are a number of heart-stopping moments of theatricality as the cast spin the fates of the central characters, showing how social expectation and convention shrink and ultimately destroy hope and even life itself. Spring Awakening has never been an easy option in theatrical terms, but Grid Iron’s production has a deceptively simple integrity which doesn’t flinch from the play’s challenging moments… The roller-coaster which is adolescence has rarely been more terrifying and uplifting than the journey depicted here, its possibilities and limitations ably given form through Ali Maclaurin’s sparkling design touches… If we are beasts who have only lately escaped the nursery, we perhaps need reminded of this from time to time. Grid Iron’s production succeeds in doing this magnificently.”
“Ben Harrison’s fine new production for Grid Iron and the Traverse, based on a new version of the text by Douglas Maxwell, does full justice to the play’s free-flowing, intensely physical form, as the eight-strong cast rush from scene to scene on Ali Maclaurin’s complex set, which opens out from schoolroom to an art-nouveau-inflected emotional landscape… his [Harrison’s] passion for the play draws a series of superb performances from his cast.”
“Maxwell’s script is clear and crisp, and Harrison has created a wonderfully otherworldly visual aesthetic.”
“The Traverse Theatre Company, collaborating with Grid Iron, stages this tragic tale beautifully; indeed the biggest star of the show is the black-board themed set design by Ali Maclaurin, and the ingenious use of props… Everyone ought to see this play once, as this is as good a production of it as you will ever find. It is good to see a professional staging of something which is so often staged at the Fringe to so little effect.”
Edinburgh Theatre Review
“Hard-hitting, but possessing a dark humour, Harrison’s production delivers a monumental strike into the heart of Scottish theatre, with its themes of wasted youth, lost souls and misinformation. Ali Maclaurin’s simple black and white art nouveau inspired set, complete with period costumes, is combined with Philip Pinsky’s haunting music to make for a visually stunning play which both mesmerises and inspires. Performed by a strong and talented cast of young and established actors, this is a frighteningly prophetic show that could become one of the highlights of the Traverse’s Autumn/Winter season.”
The Journal (Edinburgh’s Student Newspaper)
“The production is quick-footed and razor sharp, especially in its depiction of teenage life, and the staging is consistently clever. The production doesn’t shy away from potentially shocking moments… the cast are uniformly excellent.”
“Part of the pleasure of Ben Harrison’s fluid and supple production is how tactfully it deals with all these extremes, in some cases wittily, in others sensitively. It is all of a piece with the inventive staging, largely defined by the black and white of chalk on a blackboard, be that a black wall, a floor or a slate in a classroom.”
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