Adelaide Festival Review: Girl Asleep

Girl Asleep

The Windmill Theatre trilogy continues, this time flipping ideas of heroism and gender on their heads in the hilarious and colourful Girl Asleep.

Girl Asleep
Presented by Windmill Theatre
Reviewed 5 March 2014

The Windmill Theatre trilogy continues, this time flipping ideas of heroism and gender on their heads in the hilarious and colourful Girl Asleep. Directed by Rosemary Myers and written by Matthew Whittet (also appearing in all three plays), Girl Asleep is a vibrant, lively and charming play that continues exploring themes of adolescents and love.

Greta (Ellen Steele) is a girl on the verge of adulthood, living with her eccentric family in the 70s. She quickly becomes best of friends with the loveable but bumbling Elliot (Eamon Farren), but unfortunately runs afoul of the nasty twins, Jade and Umber (Jude Henshell and Amber McMahon). At Greta’s 15th birthday party things begin to go awry as she is whisked away to a magical world in her sleep.

There is a lot going on in Girl Asleep, but the excellent writing and direction manages to reign in the chaos to produce a wonderfully exciting and compelling story. Of course, the chaos of this psychedelic 70s ‘wonderland’ is what makes the play so fun. Goblins, Ice Queen and Serge Gainsbourg (really) all exist in Greta’s dream world and are fantastically realised through clever costuming. It’s really quite impressive how quickly the actors change costumes… in fact I’ll go so far to say ‘identities’ between scenes.

While Steele is an absolutely fantastic main character, the show was stolen by Farren as Elliot. There’s just something about a lanky guy in short-shorts boasting about having six gerbils that really brought the house down. Elliot and Greta are both well-written characters that could be alive and walking around today but who are also unique and charismatic enough to follow around. Whittet as the geeky dad, McMahon as the fussy, doting mum and Jude Henshell as the rebellious sister all performed spectacularly, ensuring constant laughter from the audience. Paige Whitby is a great young Greta, doing very well for her stage debut.

I have to praise the set designers and constructors of Girl Asleep, and Windmill Theatre Productions in general. The pink and purple walls that dominate the set unfold into a magical world. Through clever use of projections, the set becomes bright and blazing hot or freezing cold and dark.

Top-notch sound design also plays an enormous part, especially when the frozen Ice Queen begins to move and the ice around her cracks and shatters. I actually felt a chill. The soundtrack is also great, featuring classic 70s hits, modern ambient music and original compositions that all create different, and sometimes conflicting, emotions.

Whittet has a real talent in turning pop culture into comedy and making the every-day hilarious. His partnership with Myers and Jonathon Oxlade (Designer) has already produced some ridiculously good shows, proving a definite synergy among the team.

Girl Asleep is a memorable show, bringing together the entertaining absurdity of dreams and the struggles of adolescent life in a perfect mix. Girl Asleep is definitely something special.

Reviewed by James Rudd

Venue: Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
Season: 4 – 15 March
Duration: 80 mins
Tickets: $29.00-$39.00
Bookings: Book through BASS online or phone 131 246

Photo Credit: Shane Reid


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