Anne Broom (The Stage)

    Seldom does a young cast sing out with such passion and energy as they do in this impressive production. Seldom does a young cast sing out with such passion and energy as they do in this impressive production, the first UK tour of a controversial musical. Pete Gallagher directs with insight and courage, inspiring his strong and spirited ensemble to build and play out a story that is unafraid to shock. Incest and abuse lie beneath a veneer of polite society in late 19th century Germany, its sexual parameters strictly laid out. With little knowledge or parental guidance, a group of young adolescents explore awakening erotic desires with tragic results. Set centrally on a stage dominated by a stylistic tree of knowledge, a visual metaphor that is flanked by dual stairways, musical director Michael Bradley (piano) accompanied by guitar, bass and drums ensures that Duncan Sheik’s rock music underpins and forwards the story. Shaping the action, music echoes the reality and fantasy that are juxtaposed in adolescent worlds dominated by authority and youthful escapism. Clever and sophisticated beyond his years, the worldly-wise and intelligent Melchior is portrayed by Jonathan Eio, an actor whose fine singing voice and charisma lend credence to the character. Victoria Serra makes an impressive debut performance as Wendla, subtly blending innocence and awareness, so that the couple’s erotic sexual encounter achieves a gentle dream-like sensitivity. Billy Cullum’s Moritz is a driven and disturbed, angst-ridden youngster whose fear of failure and of parental displeasure drives him to despair. With inventive technique, Jane Stanton and Robert Eyles play the adult roles in an accomplished and disciplined ensemble.