Fruhlings Erwachen rehearsals well under way. Very creative company.
Amazing how relevant Wedekind’s play is. On one level it is a coming of age tale warning against the dual dangers of religious dogma and ignorant parenting. Children all across the world are still left in the dark about the act of sex because religion dictates it is immoral or parents are too embarrassed to impart the relevant information.
Consequently, uninformed young adults make mistakes that will scar their lives to come. Adolescents today have to grapple with potent seductions; the alluring chant of nihilism, the animalistic impulses toward violence, the thought-obliterating joys of sex. The issues that Wedekind dwells upon - suicide, abortion, rape, homosexuality, masturbation, sadomasochism, sexual abuse – are all startling relevant and, in the case of Fruhlings Erwachen, are all born from social repression.
It is the link between repression in the home and corruption in the community beyond that introduces a second more significant level. Fruhlings Erwachen doesn’t just concern itself with teen angst; it vividly reminds us of the dangers of living in a hierarchical, patriarchal and feudal society which appears to be outwardly placid but is actually dysfunctional and repressive.
It highlights the brutality of a certain kind of authoritarian male and the blind and destructive obedience of citizens fearful of being ostracised by the church and their local community. Authority is embodied by the educated bourgeoisie and all strive to keep the social wheels turning: teacher, doctor, judge, pastor and parent. The children are forced to conform and bend to the will of their elders. They are the subjects of a totalitarian regime imposing a rigid moral code at odds with reality. So for me the piece is about the conflict between collective authority and individual expression.
The ‘awakening’ alluded to isn’t just sexual it is also political.
When we are first introduced to Melchior he is questioning the system, then he opposes it by educating Moritz and satiating his own sexual appetite with Wendla despite comprehending the potential consequences. The system punishes him for his rebellion by framing him (and exonerating themselves) for Moritz’s suicide.
He is institutionalised but he continues to buck the system and breaks out (although this time he has the pregnant Wendla to spur him on).
Discovering Wendla has been killed during a botched abortion he gives up and attempts to take his own life but is stopped by the need to vindicate the memory of his dead friends.
At the end of the play, Melchior has been forced to grow up and is ready to take on the system as an adult.
Who is the masked man?????