Presented by: Windmill Theatre Company in association with Adelaide Festival Centre
Reviewed 13 September 2019
It’s time to reminisce about your teenage years, both its horrors and heart-warming experiences, as we follow 14-year-old Greta on the colourful, dramatic and surreal night of her 15th birthday in Girl Asleep – a truly unique coming-of-age tale.
It’s not easy being a teenager, and Greta is well aware of this. Due to her well-meaning, former pageant-queen mother, Janet, organising a very un-wanted party for her 15th birthday, our teen-hero is forced into hosting an array of friends, strangers and blonde-haired bullies in her very own home. After a traumatic bullying incident occurs in the safe space of her bedroom, Greta finds herself pulled into a nightmare world of plastic horses and slobber goblins by a mysterious figure. It’s now up to her to be brave and face her fears… or she may never make it home.
This is the second run in Adelaide of Girl Asleep (which is part of a trilogy), the brain-child of writer Mathew Whittet who also performs in the production. After premiering at the 2014 Adelaide Festival, it grew to become an award-winning feature film in 2015 and is now back on stage and better than ever. This Australian coming-of-age story differs from others with its surreal and magical other-world, similar to that of ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Alongside the abundance of hilariously caricatured characters are fearful elements of the unknown (an unseen vicious pack of snarling dogs), confusing words of advice (find the maiden with the small hands?) and terrifying challenges, a metaphorical reflection of what young teenagers experience as they grow out of childhood and into adolescence.
When the stage is first lit up, the audience is transported into the vibrantly coloured and hideously decorated world of the 1970’s with its “glamorous” family portraits, overwhelming purple wallpaper and glowing lava lamps. Matching the impressively garish set is the array of boldly 70’s outfits; way-too-short-shorts, heavily flared denim, a baby-blue suit and raspberry velvet jumpsuit layered over lavender frills. Complementing these features is the pumping soundtrack which provides a list of hit 1970’s songs like Ernie K-Doe’s ‘Here Come the Girls’ which has the audience bopping in their seats.
The entire cast is faultless, eagerly transforming throughout the production into the array of enthusiastic, bizarre, terrifying and supportive characters that make up the world of Girl Asleep. From the very first moment, Ellen Steele brilliantly inhabits the stage as our anxious protagonist, Greta, whose challenging journey of growth enthrals the audience. Antoine Jelk provides an abundance of good feelings and comedic relief as the gangly, kind-hearted, donut-loving Elliot, and also makes an appearance as the suave Serge Gainsbourg. Sheridan Harbridge tortures parents in the audience as Greta’s sassy and argumentative older sister, Genevieve, while author Whittet pulls on his shortest shorts and gives us his best hip-swinging dance moves as Greta’s un-abashed father.
A special mention must be made of the jaw-dropping talent that is Amber McMahon (who also starred in the film version of Girl Asleep) as she slips seamlessly between a variety of characters including Greta’s pseudo-debonair and hyper theatrical mum, the intimidating Ice Queen and the terrifyingly-silent, psychopathic, cool-girl Umber.
It’s rare to come across a production that simply has it all, shaking the audience with laughter while unveiling the poignant sadness that adolescence can bring. Girl Asleep pushes all the right buttons in a production that all ages (above 13) will enjoy. It is NOT to be missed this September.
Reviewed by Georgina Smerd
Venue: Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival
Season: 12 – 21 September 2019
Duration: 80 mins
Tickets: $29 – $49
Bookings: Book through BASS