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I never intended to review Awakening, but after seeing the play a week ago I felt that I had to write something. Here are a few words about Daniel Lammin’s adaptation of Frank Wedekind’s Spring Awakening. Don’t expect my ramblings to have any structure, this is not a review, just some thoughts.
I go to the theatre to get out of my own skin for an hour or two. I am open to any new experience and emotion, yet Daniel Lammin makes me put my walls up. It is a powerful, subconscious reaction, and I do not fully understand why it happens. Daniel’s work is unflinchingly honest, and I suspect that it teases certain things out of me that I would rather keep suppressed. And he makes me cry, which is not an easy feat. Daniel is special for another reason: he gets people to communicate with each other. Seeing Columbine several years ago inspired some of the deepest and most meaningful conversations I have ever had, and Awakening is no different – it makes you want to talk to someone.
This is not Spring Awakening. The original play is broken down to its DNA and the elements are reassembled and reexamined in a modern light. The cast of six alternate between the nine roles, giving the actors ample opportunity to explore the characters. It is a serious challenge, especially for a play which deals with heavy issues like rape, abuse, mental illness and suicide, but the cast rise up to it. I would especially like to commend James Malcher and Samantha Hafey-Bagg on their performances.
Awakening overflows with emotion. It is clear that the work is personal, which accounts for some small missteps. Columbine was razor-sharp and delivered each blow with devastating accuracy, but Awakening is raw and imprecise. The director could afford to be analytical about the former, but the latter is, in his own words, an exorcism. And exorcisms are messy. I hope Awakening returns to the stage, and I hope Daniel continues to work on it, but I doubt whether something as personal as this play can ever be “perfected”, or whether it needs to be.
Brock Turner, the Stanford rapist, was released from prison on Friday, after serving only half of his laughable six-month sentence. The case gained world-wide attention after the victim impact statement made its way online and went viral overnight. Turner has still not admitted his guilt. I am hesitant to use the word “victim” when talking about the girl whom Turner assaulted. If her letter is anything to go by, this young woman is a survivor. She is incredibly resilient, eloquent and determined to overcome her ordeal and move on. At the end of Awakening – in what is a complete departure from Wedekind’s original text – Wendla confronts Melchior. She has no intention to surrender, she refuses to be silenced, and she will not be buried. It is the single biggest act of defiance any person is capable of, and it changes the course of the story. In the end, it is Wendla, not Melchior, who gets to walk away. And for that, Daniel, I thank you.
Photography by Nura Sheidaee.