Since premiering at the Adelaide Festival in 2014, Windmill Theatre Co’s '70s coming-of-age fable 'Girl Asleep' has had a fairytale run, with the theatre piece spawning an internationally-acclaimed film of the same name in 2015, before it returned to the stage at the renowned Belvoir Theatre in Sydney in 2016.
Director Rosemary Myers has steered the story of the introverted 15-year-old Greta Driscoll’s nocturnal adventures from the start, from “once upon a time”, and is proud to be bringing the show home for an extended season.
Works of fiction about growing up, about the painful transition from childhood to adulthood, have a universal appeal, as no matter where we started on the road of life, we all passed through that same gateway. While many works of teenage fiction, like 'Looking For Alibrandi', focus upon the rebelliousness of youth, writer Matthew Whittet decided to tackle another aspect of this complicated developmental period in 'Girl Asleep', as Rosemary explains.
“You kind of have that adrenaline-charged aspect of your adolescence that’s quite engaged with risk and partying and trying new experiences and then you have this other end of the experience where you’re lying in your bed for large periods of time living inside your own head.”
While teens might hibernate in their bedrooms to escape their parents, to carve out an autonomous zone, 'Girl Asleep' was inspired by a Brothers Grimm character with a penchant for napping that would put most teens to shame, as Rosemary explains.
“It’s our response to 'Sleeping Beauty'. It’s like what happens to the girl when she goes to sleep because that’s a story that’s never told, because in the main story she goes to sleep and the prince saves her by kissing her and wakes her up but no, what’s going on when she’s asleep and in that dream state?”
Image © Tony Lewis
While Sleeping Beauty’s troubles were triggered by a spindle and wicked fairy, 'Girl Asleep'’s protagonist Greta’s nemeses are the mean girls who might come to her impending 15th birthday party. The work, which has been likened to 'Napoleon Dynamite', explores how, during those savage times, just one friend can provide refuge.
“The social pecking order, it’s pretty brutal,” Rosemary says.
“Number one, you realise that there is this pecking order and number two, you’re at the bottom of it.”
“A lot of Matt’s shows, he often writes about beautiful friendships and they are often the outsider’s friendship stories.”
For Rosemary and Matt, Greta’s travails are reflective of their own youth to some degree, as she explains.
“We often talk about how that was our experience growing up, we were the drama nerds and not the sport jocks.”
Thankfully, Rosemary and Matthew found their place and found each other at Windmill Theatre. For the past five years, they have been refining 'Girl Asleep', and Adelaide audiences now have a chance to see the show, which stars Ellen Steele and Amber McMahon, now that it’s all grown up.
“Obviously being a home company that creates contemporary work, Adelaide always gets our premiere season, which is really exciting because it’s our hometown but it’s exciting to come back and show the more refined version as well.”
“We had such a great response from the show when we premiered and we had quite a short season so we really wanted to give Adelaide more of an opportunity to experience the show.”
'Girl Asleep' plays the Space Theatre at the Adelaide Festival Centre from 12-21 September.