And so Belvoir’s interesting 2016 season comes to a close. And they’ve ended on a high. Matthew Whittet’s Girl Asleep is a a whimsical look into the universal trials and tribulations of teenage life. Set in the 70’s, the shorts are short and the socks are high.
Greta (Ellen Steele) is about to turn 15, on the cusp of adolescence and the wonders (and terrors) it can bring. Her overly excited mother Janet (Amber McMahon) and ‘king of the dad jokes’ father Conrad (played by the playwright) have decided to throw Greta a birthday party, and invited, to her horror, her entire school.
Greta’s older sister Genevieve (Sheridan Harbridge) tries to be supportive, but is so wrapped up in being alternative that she misses the mark. Greta’s only friend is Elliott (Dylan Young) who is the epitome of innocent geekiness. When he arrives at the party, Greta begins to relax. But soon the mean girls arrive, and the stress and humiliation force Greta into a downward spiral that lands her in a strange place — a world of ice queens, spit goblins, foul-mouthed talking birds and rabid dogs.
Girl Asleep first saw the light of day at the 2014 Adelaide Festival and has since been turned into an acclaimed indie film that’s been seen worldwide.
This production, in collaboration with Windmill Theatre Company, is directed by Rosemary Meyers, and while aimed at a younger audience will certainly please all ages. It’s universal themes about growing up and discovering a sense of self have undeniably been felt by all of us at some point.
The performances are heightened without losing any clarity, and across the board the actors display some impeccable comedic talent. McMahon, Harbridge and Young shine particularly brightly in this domain, each playing multiple characters and charming the audience with irresistible ease. Steele brings an understated strength to Greta and gives an authentic, truthful performance.
Jonathan Oxlade’s set and costumes are seductively, quintessentially ’70’s. A floor covered in thick, plush carpet, walls papered with purple brocade and men in extremely tight shorts evoke a sense of nostalgia for an Australia long gone.
Whittet has managed to capture the paralysing fear and the heart-wrenching excitement of what it means to grow up. His play is a thoroughly entertaining look at the journey into adulthood, and its themes might be simple but they are explored here, under the careful hand of Meyers, with sophistication. A treat for everyone.
Playing at the Upstairs Theatre, Belvoir, Until December 24.
Alana Kaye – Theatre Now and Talking Arts
2 – 24 Dec 2016
Wednesday to Friday 8pm
Saturday 2pm & 8pm
8pm, 2 December
6.30pm, 3 December
Opening night (invitation only)
6.30pm, 4 December
(note earlier time for Opening Night)
Venue: Belvoir: Downstairs Theatre
Recommended for ages 14+