The curtains opened on Friday for Tauranga Musical Theatre's challenging new production of Spring Awakening, an award-winning rock musical exploring the tumults of teenage sexuality and mental health.

The eight-time Tony Award-winning show is based on Frank Wedekind's 1891 play of the same name. It is set in 19th-century Germany and tells the story of teenagers discovering and navigating the complications of teenage sexuality.

Spring Awakening explored harrowing themes including mental health, sexual assault, consent, homosexuality and teen suicide, perhaps making it a far throw from what theatre-goers might expect from a musical.

The show opened at the end of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, an annual campaign based in the United States that takes place every April to spread awareness and educate the public about sexual assault.


Director Kaitlin Spedding said a big underlying theme in the show was the consequences of people not receiving adequate sex education.

She said audiences should come with an open mind as it could be "pretty confronting" to discuss these vital issues.

"We want to tell these stories because there are important real-life issues that people deal with and need to be put in the spotlight ... we want to deal with them as tastefully and as accurately as possible."

These aspects were not added "shock value", but to spark important conversations about the topics brought up.

"We want to put these things out there so people are can learn from it. If it can spark some conversations about mental health, it's really good."

Cast member Paraskevi Spiropoulos, who played one of the lead characters, Wendla, said the themes of the show were just as relevant today as they were when the play was written in 1891.

She said information about sex that young people needed to know was "censored" by parents.

While the production would cover some heavy themes, it was a "beautiful and touching show".


Clinical psychiatry lead for service Safe to Talk, Dr Siale Foliaki, said young people often learnt their value system from the people around them and the consequences of misinformed decision making could be "devastating".

"The onus of teaching young people about consent is on society, communities and parents to help young people who may not have had the necessary life experiences to fully understand the consequences of decisions they make.

"Knowing what constitutes informed consent is vital, for example, someone who is intoxicated may give permission for a sexual act to take place, but not be in an adequate mind space to give consent."

What is consent?

- Consent is when someone freely and willingly engages with another person in a sexual activity.
- Consent can't be forced or assumed, and both people must feel free to say no.
- Consent can be withdrawn at any point before, or during, the sexual act with the expectation that the other person stops. Any type of sexual activity without consent is considered sexual harm and is against the law.
- Sexual harm involves imposing some form of sexual act on a person who doesn't want it. This means the person does not consent.
- Sometimes, a person is not legally capable of consenting, or refusing consent to a sexual act

Source: Safetotalk
Spring Awakening
Rated R16
April 26 - May 11
Westside Theatre, 17th Avenue, Tauranga
To buy tickets or for more information, go to the Tauranga Musical Theatre website.

If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.
Or if you need to talk to someone else:
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (Mon-Fri 1pm to 10pm. Sat-Sun 3pm-10pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Samaritans 0800 726 666