Adelaide Festival Review: School Dance

School Dance

The final play in Windmill Theatre’s brilliant trilogy explores the story of those who feel invisible. It is a play for those who feel they never fit in.


School DancePresented by Windmill Theatre
Reviewed 13 March 2014

Fugitive explored the development of the ‘alpha male’, and Girl Asleep the changing lives of girls entering adulthood. School Dance, the last piece of Windmill Theatre’s brilliant Trilogy, is the story of the ‘loser’, those who feel invisible. It is a play for those who feel they never fit in and a touching tribute to those who have ever made a fool of themselves dancing.

Directed by Rosemary Myers, written by Matthew Whittet and designed by Jonathon Oxlade, School Dance follows Matt (Matthew Whittet), Jonathon (Jonathon Oxlade) and Luke (Luke Smiles) as they try to figure out why Matt has suddenly started turning invisible before the school dance. Supported by Amber McMahon as a host of characters including Matt’s multiple love interests as well as the narrator, and Jim Rose as Derek Strugess, the scary bully.

School Dance begins as a pretty typical awkward teen comedy, set in a pretty realistic rendering of a school. A narrator introduces the boys as if they were exotic creatures, and this sarcastic documentary style continues throughout. Things quickly take a magical turn when Matt finds himself in the ‘Land of Invisible Teens’, created through ingenious use of projected animation and traditional set design. This mix of digital animation (by Chris More) and handmade craft is absolutely fantastic; bringing the magic to life and imbibing it with the unique Windmill Theatre quality we know and love.

Whittet, Oxlade, Smiles and MacMahon are all absolutely fantastic actors. They nail the awkward teen look and stance. While this stereotyping can get a bit over the top at times, it becomes hilarious when we pick out qualities displayed in our dorky but beloved friends or even ourselves. The term ‘loveable loser’ has never been more appropriate then when talking about these characters. The impromptu dance numbers scattered throughout the play also highlight the actors’ talent in dancing, even if they try to make it look as awful as possible.

Like in Fugitive and Girl Asleep, sound plays an enormous part in School Dance. The soundtrack is perfect for the setting, and surround sound effects are all utilized brilliantly. Combined with strobe lighting though, some of the louder sound effects almost become overwhelming. The intensity of the sound and lighting do make a number of important scenes really shocking.

School Dance is a lot more light-hearted than the other plays in the trilogy and just as hilarious. Those looking for a completely family-friendly show will find a few scenes a bit risqué, but all in all it is a great play that will connect with almost everyone. It’s a bit Napoleon Dynamite, a bit The Mighty Boosh, and completely fun. That is if you enjoy sweatpants, laser-beam unicorns and buff, blue Gremlins.

Reviewed by James Rudd

Venue: Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
Season: 12 – 16 March
Duration: 75 mins
Tickets: $29.00-$39.00
Bookings: Book through BASS or phone 131 246

Photo Credit: Tony Lewis


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