This rock-infused folk musical, based on the 1891 play of the same name, is about a group of young people dealing with the growing pains of adolescence in an oppressive society – along with the bitter reality that life is harsh, and rarely fair. The themes of sexuality and burgeoning adulthood are explored from multiple points of view, focusing mainly on the central characters Melchior and Wendla.
Despite a few missed notes in the opening songs, the musical numbers were generally well-performed by the young and talented cast. Highlights include ‘The Bitch of Living’ and ‘Totally Fucked’ – the second of which is led by David Perkins’ Melchior, who infuses his performance with humour and anger at the predicament in which he finds himself. The musical does have humorous moments, a lot of them sexual, and the more graphic performances were very well done especially considering the intimacy of the venue.
The cast do double duties, performing a lot of the music themselves with the assistance of a near-permanent electric piano player. For this reason the cast rarely go off-stage – instead moving around as needed for the scenes and music, showing a well-practised choreography. The set is minimalist, consisting for the most part of just a table and a few chairs, but I was left unsure exactly when the action is meant to be taking place. The original musical is set in nineteenth-century Germany, yet the costumes and set design of this show would suggest a different era.
This is an abridged version of the musical, but it retains the main plot and is easy enough to follow – even if some of the characters are reduced to little more than named background players. However, some events that take place within the story merit a pause to highlight the drama, and – in trying to fit in as much as possible into the running time – these moments are lost.
So this shortened production does feel rushed at times, overall it is an energetic and heady mix of raw emotion and power – and one that is performed well by an effervescent cast.