Windmill Theatre’s Girl Asleep

Mar 05, 2014
Windmill Theatre's Girl Asleep. Photo: Tony Lewis

Windmill Theatre's Girl Asleep. Photo: Tony Lewis

Girl Asleep is the latest production in a trilogy of coming-of-age tales by Windmill Theatre, all of which are being presented at this year’s Adelaide Festival. Although each play is a stand-alone story in its own right, they share many themes – especially the closing of the doors of childhood and entrance into the strange and incongruous world of adolescence.

In Girl Asleep, we see a reimagining of both Sleeping Beauty and Alice in Wonderland set against the backdrop of the 1970s to explore the torturous process of becoming a woman.

Greta Driscoll is chronically shy and privately falling apart. Her family moves constantly, and Greta is forever the new girl at school, something she hates with ferocity. At her latest school, she meets and befriends school nerd Elliot, and is bullied by beautiful mean girls.

In an attempt to help her daughter come out of her shell, Greta’s mother, Janet, plans a surprise fifteenth birthday party for her – and that’s when things fall apart.

After the mean girls deliver their devastating “present”, Greta fights off Elliot’s advances. Then Greta falls asleep and is propelled into a parallel place; a latent world that’s weirdly erotic, ultra violent and thoroughly ludicrous – just like Wonderland.

Everything about this production is visually arresting, from the purple paisley wallpaper, to the ’70s wigs, costumes and strobe displays. In sections, the use of the strobe and blackout create a truly frightening atmosphere to convey the terror Greta faces as she falls from the innocence of childhood.

The cast does a magnificent job, especially during the slow-motion surrealist scenes. The Baywatch-style slow-motion “bitch fight” between Greta and the two mean girls is a stand-out.

While all actors in this small cast are highly professional and engaging, NIDA graduate Eamon Farren – who plays the dual roles of Elliot and Serge – really makes the show. As Elliot, Farren keeps up his character’s distinct adolescent gawkiness; as Serge, he is utterly suave and seductive. Flinders University drama graduate Ellen Steele is also excellent in the role of Greta, convincingly portraying a young girl on the brink of womanhood.

Part fairytale and part lipstick-smeared vigilante escapade, this is a girl’s own adventure where heroism and gender implode in a unique exposé of the sisterhood. Girl Asleep is an excellent night out for both adults and almost-adults.

Girl Asleep is playing at the Space Theatre again on March 5, 8, 9 and 15, with matinee and evening sessions on some days. The two earlier works in Windmill’s coming-of-age trilogy are also being re-staged during the Adelaide Festival, with School Dance playing on various dates from March 12-16, and The Fugitive from March 1-9.

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