When was the last time you fondled the pearl of your distant dreams? Thought so.
Andrew spent Monday eagerly tracking the West End theatre cancellations and praying for the Lyric Hammersmith to make the announcement which would get him off the hook.
The Stage tantalisingly reported cancellations of Mamma Mia!, Jersey Boys, Les Miserables, Oliver!, Avenue Q, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Complicit, Grease, Carousel, Be Near Me, Hairspray, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Wicked, Sunset Boulevard, The Sound of Music, Billy Elliot – The Musical, Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage, Gethsemane, On The Waterfront, The Phantom Of The Opera, Private Lives, Twelfth Night, Stomp, The Mousetrap and We Will Rock You.*
The Guardian clarified that Gethsemane would be cancelled “because a cast member is stuck in Brighton and there are no understudies for Cottesloe productions”.
But it was very all exciting: by early afternoon the Lyric was telling phone callers that the cast and crew were “struggling to get in” but they didn’t know if enough would get in for the performance to go ahead. Andrew asked the theatre to assure the cast and crew not to go to any trouble on his account. After all, this was another one of Phil’s bright ideas.
Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik‘s Spring Awakening is a Tony Award-winning musical (in the loosest sense of the word; it is- as the Reverend Lovejoy would say – principally rock and/or roll) based on the the original (and once banned) play by Frank Wedekind.**
Apparently the Lyric invited the original creative team behind the New York production to stage the London première with a new (and mostly inexperienced) British cast.
It is “a vibrant and poignant story about a brilliant young student Melchior (Aneurin Barnard), his troubled friend Moritz (Iwan Rheon), and Wendla (Charlotte Wakefield), a beautiful teenage girl – all on a voyage of personal discovery and sexual awakening”.
It is for young people.
It has been described as “the new Rent” which was not an auspicious start given that Andrew had left Rent at the interval and Phil would’ve if he could’ve.
So far, so not the Whingers’ thing.
But add to this the fact that Spring Awakening is about the mostly sexual awakenings of young people and you might as well have landed the Whingers on some strange, distant planet. For it is a long time since each Whinger had his sexual awakening. Indeed, so long that Andrew has effectively retired and Phil has been repeatedly made redundant.
Still, the poster in Hammersmith tube station assured us that the musical has a shivery sensual allure unmatched by anything in the theatre today and so why wouldn’t you go?
Well, you wouldn’t go if you were over 19 years of age for a start because there would be nothing here for you unless you had an unhealthy interest in the sexual awakenings of teenagers.
If one were a cynic, one might say that this show took a very cynical approach towards grooming its young audience. This is a world in which one adult in 16 (approximately) has any redeeming features at all; the rest are simply cartoon bullies.
The young people, on the other hand, are all emotional tortured, misunderstood individuals consistently and repeatedly ill-served by the adults in whose charge they lie.***
Unsurprisingly, they are all deeply angst-ridden about one thing or another. One is so angst-ridden that he kills himself, thus ensuring an irresistible allure for the more musically-challenged emo elements of today’s young generation (Ah, The Young Generation. If only).
Well, of course, there was no end of moping about and what these children most needed was a good slap. In fact in a couple of scenes the generic adults (two actors play all the adult roles between them) did slap them and Andrew fought hard to suppress a cheer.
In fact he wanted to do more than cheer. He wanted to shout, “You think life is difficult now! Ha! Wait until you’re a grown up and you have to pay full price to sit through nonsense like this!” But he kept well buttoned until two of them had died at which point he was unable to suppress his joy and uttered an involuntary “yesssssssssss!”
But even here Andrew was struggling to keep up. Andrew kept turning to Phil asking sotto voce, “Is he/she dead?” He could just about follow what was going on in the first act masturbation number (a musical first for The Whingers and an appropriate motif for the whole show) but probably only because one of its euphemisms is oft applied to The Whingers.
Phil quite enjoyed the Bill T. Jones‘s choreographing of “The Bitch of Living” and was thrilled by the bizarre revival of early 90s voguing revived in another number. Swathes of the audience reacted wildly to the “Totally F***ed” song, but probably only because it was performed without the coy asterisks. Phil also had plenty of time to admire the distractingly decorative wellies of an on-stage audience member. Andrew, meanwhile, was so taken with the cast’s knickerbockers that he’s currently scouring Matalan for a pair he can squeeze into.
Worst of all was an awful lot of quasi rock-posturing by the cast who (like a lot of rock stars) are not great singers, the sound design was muddy and the lyrics (Steven Sater) often (and mercifully) unintelligible.
Here’s a sample:
Come, cream away the bliss
Travel the world within my lips
Fondle the pearl of your distant dreams
Haven’t you heard the word of your body?
O, you’re gonna be wounded
O, you’re gonna be my wound
O, you’re gonna bruise too
O, I’m gonna be your bruise
Anyway, this is one of those juggernaut shows in whose path there is no point in lying down. There are already just short of 1,000 Facebook fans including one or two people known to the Whingers who really should know better.
It really just wasn’t our sort of thing at all. Having schlepped over to The Lyric worried we might be overnighting in a Hammersmith doorway the least they could have done was start on time. SA went up 17 minutes late (due to technical difficulties) which didn’t exactly help our moods.
Low Rent indeed.
But don’t take our word for it. Judge for yourself with the sights and sounds of Spring Awakening.
* Seriously. Whatever happened to “the show must go on”? Monday 2nd February 2009 ( or “2/2” as it will come to be known) will go down in history as the West End’s darkest hour: the day it abandoned its most fundamental tenet. Whither the spirit of the Windmill Theatre? Of Ethel Merman? Of Lesley Garrett.
**Frank Wedekind is described in the programme by the Lyric’s artistic director David Farr as “perhaps Europe’s most mischievous man of the 19th century. He spent most of his life having sex with Munich cabaret dancers, drinking his way across Europe, and singing rude and subversive songs in dodgy cellar-bars. He went to prison at least once and flouted just about every law imaginable.” and that after the show “there would be no one drunker in the bar afterwards than him”. Do our reputations not precede us as far as Hammersmith?
*** In an early scene the adult mother figure (Sian Thomas, an actress seemingly drawn to plays unworthy of her talents) shies away from giving her daughter a lesson in sex education and so it is clearly her fault when the daughter falls pregnant and dies. But the Whingers think that Spring Awakening is equally culpable for misleading people. Now they may not know much about this kind of thing but, from observations made on Monday evening, heterosexual congress is achieved by the man pulling down the back of his y-fronts while ensuring that the front of them stays in place. Once he has revealed his naked bottom he lies on top of the woman, but not before she has raised her downstage leg a bit. Is that right?