August 3 to 11 (not 5)

This is a brave and very moving production featuring young performers aged 16 to 18 from Bancroft’s Scholl appearing as the Bancroft’s Players. They have taken a famous classic central European drama, Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind. When it was first performed in the 1890s it was seen as scandalous, with its references to masturbation, underage sex and pregnancy, homosexuality and suicide, to mention a few.

This production has been updated to 1963 England, the time when sex began for one of the famous poets of that time, and the Beatles were hitting their stride. The cast enter very convincingly into their roles, including the movement between generations, and one player moves between rebellion, staunch authority, and a wistful kiss with his boyfriend to very good effect. Their yearning and misery, and the way they are corralled by authority is conveyed very well with a severe minimum of set and props. The variety pf personalities and inclinations is put across almost instantly by the young players, and the despair and sense of pointlessness that is bred through an older generation that has quite forgotten its youthful feeling can almost be touched. Plus the final message of hope in action that comes from one of the most rule-defying characters comes over well at the end.

However, the aspect that I found least satisfactory was the updating. The late nineteenth century world of the original in its particular class and place was deeply stultifying, and young people talking about babies and storks and at fourteen not knowing what sex involved and how to get pregnant was believable. For young people after Elvis and Lonnie Donegan plus the Lady Chatterley trial – and that book has a place in this production – together with my own memories of that time – this I found very difficult to swallow. England at the time of the Wilde trial yes, but in the early days of the Rolling Stones? Hmm.

However, there is much to be said in praise of this show – the cast convey very deep emotions without any excess of expression. The low key approach to their terrible situation makes it all the more disturbing and involving. This can be recommended as a contrast to much that is on offer that is much more superficial.

Tony Challis