SATIRIST, musician and performer Frank Wedekind offended his audience with his first play, the semi-autobiographical Spring Awakening, written in 1891 and not staged for 15 years – and that was just how he wanted it to be.
Written partly as a response to the oppressive German education system of the time, which resulted not only in frequent suicides but the coining of a name to describe the practice, he wanted to shake the authorities out of a complacent acceptance.
The play deals with the still-controversial subjects of teenage sexual experimentation, homosexuality, sado-masochism, rape, abortion and suicide.
Now a new version has been written by 22 year old rising star playwright Anya Reiss for a combined production by Headlong, the West Yorkshire Playhouse and Southampton Nuffield, and it is on stage at the Nuffield until 5th April.
Set in the park where the kids hang out, in their bedrooms and at school, it’s the story of eight young people whose hormones are hurling them headlong into a world for which they are ill prepared, both by their parents and their teachers.
It all starts as the seductive voice of Roger Allam describes the allegorical nude paintings of the Renaissance, adding to the confusion of the teenage class.
Apparent confidence covers woeful lack of knowledge, but life, for most of them, goes on, until they become their parents in an endless continuum.
Bristol Old Vic Theatre School graduate Ben Kidd directs with a tense, nervous energy that teeters between loneliness and braggadocio. The young cast manage the intensity with skill, slipping fluidly between characterisations of the teenagers and their parents and teachers.
It’s a shocking play, and one for all generations. The giggling of a large young audience at the Nuffield on the opening night soon gave way to gasps of uneasy recognition.