With the opening night just around the corner, I caught up with some of the cast of Hope Mill Theatre’s Spring Awakening to see how the rehearsals have been going and what the show is going to entail.
Being the award-winning Hope Mill Theatre’s seventh in-house production, Luke Sheppard’s take on the Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater musical has a lot of expectations to meet, and the actors certainly didn’t disappoint when I got to hear a sneak peek at one of the songs.
The themes of growing up and discovering who you are in this word resonate strongly and are scarily poignant in today’s society, as gritty and emotive rock numbers playout beside the scenes set in late-nineteenth-century Germany. Sheppard describes the show as “a genre-defying musical” and pulls strings and boundaries of what a musical could and can be.
I spoke to Adam Dawson who is joining the cast as Hanschen after the recent Hope Mill Theatre transfer of the musical ‘Hair‘ to London and Luke Latchman who is taking on the role of Ernst. The characters fall in love with each other and have to deal with the hatred about their forbidden relationship.
“For me; it is challenging, but on our first day we set out that we are just going to attack the material head-on” Adam explained. “When tackling and working with the topics that are involved in the show, if you start apologising for things it starts making it worse. You don’t want to undermine the piece and back off from it.”
“Stage kissing was new to me, so that was quite an intimidating thing,” Luke added, “but as soon as you do it for the first time, you’re like ‘Ok, that’s fine, that’s easy’.”
Creating strict rules in the rehearsal room allowed the actors to know what was going to happen in that scene, and how they were going to go about it.
“Luke and I have made a conscious decision that in the original version we felt that the scene between the two boys could be played for laughs a little bit – in recordings the audience find that scene very funny,” Adam added.
“We’ve come from a different angle, being nearly ten years on, is ok to laugh? Are they laughing because it’s funny or are they laughing because it’s two men kissing on stage? So we’ve made a conscious decision and a want to find the joy in that scene appose to humour.”
“There may be a boy in that audience who is going through something similar, and you want to make it a safe environment for them. The piece is a vehicle to respond to their own feelings. I think it’s vital that you are careful with what you do because ten years on gay rights is in a completely different place – there’s a lot further to go, but it is clear there is change, so it’s essential that we address that.”
With the gravitas of the issues and themes in the piece, the pressure of delivering the musical to its fullest could get quite high. Nevertheless, this hasn’t phased the actors at all, and they are excited to open the show.
“I feel like all we can do as actors is give it our best go at explaining the truth in that situation,” Luke commented. “We are exploring it as though we are those people and going through those things, so I think that takes the pressure off, in a weird way.”
Using this musical to hopeful educated the audience with the severity of the themes, the cast of Spring Awakening as fueled and ready to let the powerhouse pop-rock musical Spring Awakening lose to the public.
Spring Awakening opens at the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester on the 29th of March to the 3rd of May and tickets can be found online here.