Spring Awakening has won lots of awards since opening on Broadway in 2006. Based on Frank Wedekind's long-banned play, Fruhlings Erwachen, it has plenty of the soapy teen drama staples - unrequited love, unfeeling parents, fascistic schoolteachers, a first gay kiss - and plenty of the harder-edged teen stuff found in films like Lynsey Anderson's If and Larry Clark's Kids. It's a powerful concotion of too much lust and not enough love.
In an ensemble cast, Jonathan Elo (Melchior) and Victoria Serra (Wendla) just about convince as young lovers, though Elo probably isn't knowing enough in his role as the intellectual heart-throb and Serra probably isn't childish enough in her role as the innocent ingenue. There's fine support from the young cast with Jill Armour as the outcast Ilse the standout. Playing all the adults, Jane Stanton is sexy and scary as required and Robert Eyles heartless until it's too late. The singing sometimes struggles to be heard over the rock score, but the words are less important than the emotion, and there's more than enough of that on show.
If it were in the cinema, Spring Awakening would probably get a 15 certificate these days and that's about right, as Sell a Door's production doesn't duck the big issues of that horrible inbetweeners' age when sex occupies so much space in your brain and so little space in your life. The play's messages are almost relentless grim with the exception of an introverted gay boy being brought out of the closet and the closing number's message of hope. If I didn't know better, I'd expect a drama that is close to life, but really rather miserable, to be a recipe for failure, but the teenagers all around me in the audience loved it and in popular culture, misery sells.
Spring Awakening is at the Greenwich Theatre until 12 June and on tour.