At its heart, Spring Awakening tells the story of teenagers discovering the inner and outer tumult of teenage sexuality. In the show, we see righteous parents who believe they have their children’s best interests at heart by keeping them in the dark about their developing bodies – in turn, they fail their children.
Majella Davis plays Wendla Bergman in North-by-South Theatre Company’s upcoming production of Spring Awakening, and she can relate to a little of what her character goes through. “Wendla is somewhat reminiscent of a young Majella”, says Davis. “Whenever I tell her story, I feel like I’m speaking for all young women who feel like they are kept in the dark. There’s something still so secretive and taboo about the way women are told to perceive their bodies and the changes that happen to them. It’s really disheartening to me that women are still made to feel ashamed of their bodies for whatever reason. I love speaking through Wendla to show how important body awareness is. There’s freedom in knowledge!”
Davis was late to the Spring Awakening party, having only first heard the cast recording in 2013. But when she heard of North-By-South’s upcoming production, she was quick to get involved. “I became immediately intrigued after reading the brief describing this production of Spring Awakening and its focus on gender inclusivity and gender fluidity”, reflects Davis. “I remember thinking this would be something really special to be a part of”.
By choosing to present the show in a gender fluid context, North-by-South are giving the audience’s a truly fresh take on the show. “Our gender fluid casting will automatically ask the audience to look at the show and the characters in a new light”, says Davis. “Some characters are not played by people of the gender they were originally prescribed as. A strong visual like this will hopefully spark some curiosity and conversation around the topics of gender fluidity and representation in the performing arts industry”.
One performer who has met many character challenges head on is Francesca O’Donnell. Cast in the pivotal role of Moritz, O’Donnell reflected upon the demands and responsibilities bringing the troubled teenager into this fresh context.
Mortiz’s character has quite an emotional journey which is tricky, and in addition to that, there’s the challenge of the character being written for someone who identifies as male”, says O’Donnell. “I’ve had to be really clear that I’m not playing a gender, I’m playing a person and to not fall into stereotypes on how a “male” should be played. […] Music is written a certain way to reflect the character’s emotions and intentions, so the fact the music sits in a higher place in my voice changes that slightly, and I’ve had to make choices that justify that, which is also been a challenge”.
O’Donnell has had a great time working with her fellow cast mates. “There’s definitely a sense of support amongst the cast!”, smiles O’Donnell. “There’s also been amazing discussions about the themes of the play, as well as gender in our society today which have been really educational for me, and given me a much better insight on the LGBTIQ+ community”.
North-by-South Theatre Company presents Spring Awakening at Chapel off Chapel from October 2nd to October 6th. Tickets are available from https://chapeloffchapel.com.au/show/spring-awakening/