A generational awakening

Jamie Busuttil Griffin, who will play one of the main protagonists of Adrian Buckle’s upcoming production of Spring Awakening, shares his thoughts on generation gaps, maturing into adulthood, and working with a director and a playwright he has long admired

Photo: Darren Zammit Lupi
Photo: Darren Zammit Lupi

When German playwright Frank Wedekind wrote Spring Awakening in 1891, he meant it as a criticism of the sexually repressive society of the time and as a warning about the potential consequences it could have. The play follows a group of teenagers who have been sheltered and kept in the dark about anything related to human sexuality and who are struggling to make sense of the physical and emotional changes they are going through.

The script for this version of the play has been adapted and set in contemporary Malta by

award-winning playwright Brad Birch. One of the three main protagonists is Melchior, a 14-year-old student, played by Jamie Busuttil Griffin. Unlike his friends, Melchior has a close relationship with his open-minded mother, and knows all he needs to know about puberty. He is also an atheist who is fascinated by morality and ethics, and he resents society for keeping its youth in the dark.

Busuttil Griffin, who is only two years older than the character he plays, shares Melchior’s views on these matters. “One of the most important parts of growing up and maturing is to develop well-informed and intelligent opinions on as many subjects as possible after gathering information and listening to other people’s perspectives with an open mind,” he says. “I believe that remaining impartial or, worse still, going with the flow, is a very childish approach to life.”

One of the themes of the play is the generational gap between Melchior’s peers and their parents, with the children feeling controlled and judged by the adults while the latter inevitably disapprove of their children’s choices. Busuttil Griffin puts the problem down to a lack of communication between teenagers and their parents. “Most parents would understand their children perfectly well if they were given the chance,” he suggests. “The problem is that it is often daunting for young people to approach adults with their problems or with issues which are taboo.”

Although still very young, Busuttil Griffin shows a maturity beyond his age. He has already played several important roles in the five short years he has been acting and speaks very highly of the tutors who have been following his acting education since he was 11. “I joined School of Performing Arts (SOPA) after a long and tedious childhood of football and started taking classes in singing, piano, ballet and acting,” he says. That same year, he landed his first major role as Gus in Hush, and shortly after took part in Dare to Dream and played the titular role in Amahl and the Night Visitors. Recently, he played the part of Bobby in It-Teatru tal-Miskin, written by Luke Saydon and directed by Denise Mulholland.

Although he has worked with some of Malta’s most respected playwrights and directors, he is thoroughly enjoying working with James Grieve, one of the UK’s greatest directors, who is directing Spring Awakening. “Working with someone as influential as James Grieve is a very prestigious experience, but also a nerve-racking one. I have a pencil at hand at all times during the rehearsals,” he confesses. “Every director has a different process, and they all deserve respect and commitment, but I’m positive I will learn a lot from this experience.”

Playwright Birch is another person Busuttil Griffin feels honoured to be working with. “I’m usually very sceptical of adaptations of famous works as they more often than not fall short of the original. Fortunately, this is not the case with Brad Birch’s work. His writing style is truly unique and really manages to deliver an interesting story,” he shares. “The fact that the play has been adapted to contemporary Malta is the cherry on the cake. We will all be working in a well-known environment, and it will help us deliver our message more accurately to the audience.”

Busuttil Griffin is one of a cast of nine young actors and two adult ones. “Since I have met most of the cast before, we already have a very well-bonded team,” he says. “Acting is a very intimate process, and I love the camaraderie that comes with putting up a production that all the cast are proud of, and we can’t wait to present this to audiences!”

Spring Awakening is produced by Adrian Buckle in collaboration with the Malta Drama Centre. It is suitable for audiences aged 14+. Performances will take place on 4, 5, 6, 11, 12 and 13 November 2022 at Spazju Kreattiv, Valletta. Visit https://www.kreattivita.org/en/event/spring-awakening/2022-11-04/ to book tickets and for further information. This project is supported by the Malta Arts Fund.