Hey yo that girl looks goooood
I wrote a whole post about Spring Awakening on the train from Liverpool to Crewe, saying how brilliant it was and how spoilt I feel after seeing what could be three of my shows-of-the-year in one 10-day period. Then on the bus from Crewe to Sandbach my jubilation started to fade and questions have crept in, mainly about a scene in which Yahoo Answers helps guide these confused teenagers through their own personal ethics. 3 hours ago: loved it. It felt like a witty reference and the moral felt like an anti-moral. You know how I love a bit of ambiguity, a bit of ‘who knows…’, a bit of a narrative shrug. And yet the final Yahoo Answer (was it supposed to be coming from beyond the grave? I’m not sure…) was so very definite in its uncertainty. We weren’t being asked to listen to some views on life and then go away to consider where to mark our ballots, but, more importantly, neither were the characters onstage, for whom the moral compass was most needed. (Obvs now I’m 30 I’ve got it all figured out and don’t make mistakes anymore innit.) No, we got a series of responses: some potentially useful, some daft, some curtailed as if scrolled past in haste, and then we got THE IMPORTANT ONE. THE RIGHT ONE.
THE ONE THAT GOT THE SPECIAL INTONATION.
THE ONE THAT MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN WRITTEN BY THE DEAD GIRL AND - YOU GUYS!- RIGHT AND WRONG DON’T EVEN EXIST APART FROM IN OUR MINDS MAN.
It feels a bit like they found an answer - an anti-answer - where there isn’t one. It feels like they treated a very realistic confusion as if it was a mutually-agreed conclusion.
It’s a minor, tiny, ridiculous niggle in a show that was pretty fucking flawless in every other respect. But I don’t think it’s an insignificant one.
Anyway, here is the rest of the thoughts I drafted before I started to have second thoughts about that one scene, because if there’s one thing that this show did perfectly, awkwardly, intensely right, it was to show us just how quickly teenage experience changes. #AOLchatrooms4eva
If I’d have seen Spring Awakening a year ago I would’ve been all about the design. Joe Hill-Gibbins’ Edward II was my show of 2013 for that reason, but I feel like I’ve now seen enough work with that self-consciously theatre-y aesthetic that I can see past the live projection and costume rails and, y’know, actually pay attention to the words they’re speaking.
I got my first mobile phone when I was 16. It was pay as you go, on Orange, and the handset was made by Bosch. One of my boyfriends from that time used to take the piss out of it because didn’t Bosch make drills? (He had a Nokia. He was way cooler than me. Used to go jet-skiing in North Wales at the weekend. Seriously. All boyfriends a disappointment since.)
So. I was at sixth form before I got a phone. A phone that would only store 10 text messages, never mind open YouTube. Which, btw, hadn’t even been invented. Some people had dial-up internet, piped into the communal home office via an extended phone cable, coiled in masking tape on the landing, but most didn’t. Boys still found porn in bushes behind the tennis courts when I was growing up. I was (on paper at least) a real life adult before those 2 girls even got hold of that 1 cup.
What I can’t decide, what I can’t work out, is if that makes my teenage experience unrecognisable to today’s 14 year olds, or, actually, just the same old shit*, except happening more publicly, more readily, with faster download speeds.
My mate Ben Tarbard had a video on his computer of a woman taking a shit on a man’s chest. It had probably taken him all day to download. I walked into his bedroom at a party to find a group of teenage boys (aged 14? 15?) howling with disgust, laughter, but with eyes totally fucking LOCKED onto the screen. Nice boys. Doctors now, teachers, software developers, something with pensions. Some of them married. Kids too. Boys your mum would approve of. (I generally went for the boys your mum wouldn’t approve of so god only knows what filth they were watching.)
This is kinda the point of this Spring Awakening - Anja Reiss’s Spring Awakening. That “sexual imagery” is everywhere. That there’s a bombardment of “advice” and “information” and just basic how to live stuff. In a way, it’s great. We can pick the voices we want to listen to from a whole enormous supermarket of opinions. But that supermarket of opinions, built on the same fundamentally Tory model of choice that meant I was waiting for A BUS outside what was once one of the most significant rail travel hubs in the UK (soz - terrible metaphor), is also a terrifying, dizzying cacophony. How do you tell the difference between right and wrong? How do you know which websites have the best opinions? How do you know which are the healthy porn sites and which are the really sick ones? How do you tell the difference between good people and bad people? How am I supposed to know who to believe?
When I was 16 Slipknot taught us that People = SHIT. Now I am 30 I know that People = shit and brilliant and cruel and funny and selfish and sexy and generous and also totally embarrassing wankers who you wouldn’t be seen dead with.
I think that’s progress. But, like I said, you still got your porn from the bushes behind the tennis courts when I was a teenager. I’d already made a few important choices about who I was going to become before they turned the volume up.
Getting back to the show for a min, I liked that it was framed a bit like a school play. Not overtly, not like that vomitfest Nativity with Martin Freeman or anything, but with a young cast taking on the roles of teachers and parents as well as ‘themselves’. In fact, forget the school play thing. It’s more like the bit at the end of a GCSE Drama class on a rainy Tuesday, where you share what you’ve just been doing for 45 mins (39 mins of re-enacting that Daft Punk video and 6 minutes of making a thing). And that, of course, is where it all fucks up. Two people coming on as one character at the same time, confusion as a performer didn’t realise they were actually talking about rape, and “shut up, my mum would never say it like that!” They’re all trying to play the part of GOOD PEOPLE but they don’t know what a good person is.
So this blog post is basically me just regurgitating the whole point of Spring Awakening. Oh well. The tour’s nearly over now anyway. And I’ve not thought about the ACTUAL WORDS of a show this much in fucking years. Probs since GCSE Drama.
I dunno what that tells you. *shrugs*
(*including, apparently, listening to No Diggity, which is, like, 17 years old or something but I’ll forgive them that because let’s not pretend it’s not a stone cold fucking classic.)