Directed by Rosemary Myers
Windmill Theatre Company
Belvoir St Theatre
18 & 25 Belvoir Street, Surry Hills
Season: 2 – 24 December
Girl Asleep is a kaleidoscopic explosion of colour, garish 70s style and tunes. Detailing the cringe-worthy awkwardness that is turning 15, we meet Greta in this life stage, as well as her family, friends, and plastic horses that crowd her bedroom shelves. Rosemary Myers' production is chock full of effervescent energy that exudes from start to finish. With a deliciously fond humour for the 70s era and an abundance of quirky characters, it's a show that will captivate and entertain whilst catalysing reminiscence for the formative teenage years we all have to endure.
Myers’ directorial vision takes on a bold stylistic visage that is both highly distinctive and thrilling to observe. We are presented with an alchemy of aesthetic design, technical precision and inspired performances that reminds you of the absolute wonder that theatre can be. Jonathon Oxlade's set design gives you a strong indication of the tone of the play from when you first enter the performance space. Plush grape-coloured carpet, overly ornate wallpaper patterns and some glorious self portraits give way to the self-reflexive, exaggerated style. Everyone knows it's a bit ridiculous, so everyone can enjoy the ride together. Later we see a retractable bed and bedroom - Greta's safe haven - used cleverly to contrast between public and private space. Oxlade’s costume design is bright and all-embracing of the innate comedy, thrusting the actors into strong character choices, prompted by their attire. Lighting design by Richard Vabre is used highly effectively at points for a disorienting and dreamlike effect as you fall into the unreality on stage. Luke Smiles’ original soundtrack is an oomph of energy throughout, having you jiving in your seats. This, paired with the fabulous physical work choreographed by Gabrielle Nankivell throughout is quite exhilarating. Humour is infused wherever possible - this is a show made for audiences to love watching.
Girl Asleep is driven by an excellently cohesive cast across the board, with most of the actors taking on countless roles. Amber McMahon brings acute detail to her characterisations, down to the flicker of an eye or the twitch of a hand. This serves to augment the comedic quality of her work and is a testament to her brilliant flexibility. Matthew Whittet proves to be multi-talented, not only being the playwright, but also stupendously daggy as Greta's Dad. Whittet shows off utterly hilarious dance moves whenever there's an opportunity and lights up the stage. Ellen Steele is wide-eyed and naive as Greta, showing a clear character progression as she stands up to those holding her back and gains a firmer sense of self in the face of trial. At points I wanted to see a little more conviction in the dire angst of her situation. I think everyone, no matter their age or life stage, believes their personal difficulties are completely valid, and while we all know that Steele isn't really 15, we need the suspension of disbelief to extend a little further. Dylan Young is deeply endearing as Elliott and Sheridan Harbridge shows great spunk as Greta’s older and wiser sister.
It is abundantly clear that everyone involved with this show has had a blast in its development and in its performance. It's contagious. It embodies a stage of life that is somewhat a rite of passage into adulthood - atrociously awkward, misfitting, and angsty, and yet proves to be something of a foundation for a more mature, grounded and confident young adult. You have to wonder whether a generation of Instagram-saturated and image-conscious young teens' experience will really be akin to Girl Asleep. And yet, there's something enduring about first kisses, bullies with insecurities and growing into one's own self that will never really die.