Delinquent Theatre

SPRING AWAKENING by Franz Wedekind

Dates and Venue 21 July-1 August 2009 @ 7pm | Havana Theatre, Vancouver

Reviewer Ed Farolan

In 2007, American novelist Jonathan Franzen published his 1986 translation of Wedekind's Frühlings Erwachen because he was not happy with the translation made by the Broadway musical version. Although this play is a period play, and plays of this kind normally tend to be quite long, directors Quintana and McLean managed to bring it down to a reasonable 2.5 hours including intermission.

I asked them during intermission why they chose this play and they said it was a good play for young actors. And I agreed with them as 12 young actors played multiple roles and had the chance to play different parts. They also mentioned in their programme notes as well as in their site through Youtube how things were in the old days, those days we call "the age of innocence" where parents didn't educate their children about sex as this was taboo, and that babies were brought in by storks.

This ignorance went on until the middle of the 20th century, and it was only in the 60s and 70s that sexual liberation took place, so that the children of these "liberators" were exposed to sex education as early as their primary years, and even homosexuality, which used to be a taboo in the 19th century and even the early part of the 20th century, no longer became a no-no. Wedekind would probably be happy today seeing how his play which was censored during his time is now matter-of-fact.

Even 10 years ago, we didn't see plays with men kissing each other, as it is in this show, but today, this is a common scene in contemporary theatre, something which would have shocked us 10 years or more ago. Critics of Wedekind say he was ahead of his time and I'm sure that the actors who played or tried to play the parts of these adolescents were not the run-of-the-mill types during his time. They were probably rebellious types, or actors who, like Wedekind, were ahead of their times.But today, the scenes portrayed in this play dealing with abortion, homosexuality, masturbation, rape and suicide are now commonplace in today's society. And I culd feel that the actors felt no qualms playing their parts.

This was a group of fine actors, excellent acting, and high-quality directing. I asked the directors whether they took different scenes to direct, and they said that they prepared their prompt books well in advance so that there was no problem having two directors. Besides, "we're friends and we've known each other" was their comment. Despite the fact that the stage looked cramped with 12 actors, different sets, including a bed, gigantic suitcases and wooden ladders which served as trees, headstones and so forth, the play's pace moved along smoothly.

This is the second play of this company which was formed only last year. They're a young group and they focus on teenage topics. The first play produced last year was Dog Sees God which they're bringing to the Fringe in September.

© 2009 Ed Farolan