Rites: A Children's Tragedy

Fans of Wedekind’s taboo-breaking original or its cult teen-rock musical spawn beware: this adaptation is never quite as wryly funny or as heart-wrenching. Rites: A Children’s Tragedy is a streamlined presentation of Wedekind’s Frühlings Erwachen (Spring Awakening), a drama revolutionary in its indictment of late 19th century prudishness and pedagogy. It demonstrates the damage inflicted on young adults by parental expectations, a straitjacketed school system and the denial of teenage sexuality. This production succeeds in distilling the play to a Fringe-friendly length, but loses some of the punch of the original through overly fussy staging and underwhelming performances.

The teenager has yet to be invented and growing up can feel like the scariest thing on earth. Wendla is fourteen, but her mother won’t tell her where babies come from. Moritz just can’t seem to do well at school and he’d rather die than disappoint his parents. Melchior thinks he knows it all. We witness the comical and heartbreaking consequences of their attempts to understand sexuality without adult guidance. Anyone who has been a teenager will laugh at moments such as the scene where schoolboys masturbate to erotic postcards beneath a very crowded bedsheet. More serious subject matter includes abortion, rape and teen suicide - this is a text which is still more than capable of shocking and provoking the audience.

This production looks gorgeous, but tends towards being more show than substance. The young actors’ delivery is often forced and no performance really stands out, although the girls do well to embody schoolgirl innocence, parental disapproval and adult sexuality in their shifting roles. Earnest acting results in a slightly stilted, unconvincing feel to many lines. The constant use of melodramatic music rather suggests a lack of confidence in the cast’s ability, though it does have emotional effect at times.

The main issue is indulgent stage business and an overly large cast, with far too much going on in between scenes. The stage is often unnecessarily cluttered and the actors’ incessant milling around distracts from the emotions at play. That said, the choreography does yield some haunting tableaux: a sensual, disturbing ballroom scene is a striking glimpse at an alien adult world. Another standout moment is as a funeral where black umbrellas double as crows. Perfectly serviceable but lacking a certain spark, Rites is a promising production which still has a little bit of growing up to do.

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

The Blurb

The Pleasance's own ‘breathtakingly skilled ensemble’ (Scotsman) unleash the existential and sexual anguish of Wedekind's Spring Awakening in a scalding new adaptation. 'Thrilling' (List). 'One of the hits of the Fringe' (British Theatre Guide).

Most Popular See More

Frozen the Musical

From £36.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Moulin Rouge! The Musical

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

SIX

From £21.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Come From Away

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Phantom of the Opera

From £27.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Book of Mormon

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets