Saturday, 17 December 2016

Girl Asleep, Windmill Theatre Co and Belvoir

I've sorta reviewed this already over on my other blog ( but at the same time, this is a slightly different experience. A revival of the play that inspired the movie, coming out after the movie with some of the original company (some of whom were also in the movie, some of whom weren't), this is the same basic structure (girl has a 15th birthday party thrown despite her best wishes, girl has adventures during a dream, girl wakes up and reconciles to reality) but there are intriguing variations to be captured. If this still isn't my favorite coming of age piece (it's not even my favorite coming of age piece by Matthew Whittet, I preferred "Seventeen"), it does have a fair bit of charm and insight.

There is a bit of a tonal difference between the two - whether it's just the casting of Greta (with a twenty-something actress rather than a genuine 15 year old) or simply the shifting media, the stage version seems to reach out to the audience far more directly. The fantasy sequences and almost parodistic approach to the people surrounding Greta serve in the film as slightly alienating, while in the play they work more on the level of fun gags. I'm still not entirely sure why this is set in the seventies beyond for a bit of visual flair, and I'm not sure whether the intention is to say something deeper about female social emergence or whether it's just a fun premise, but I do find this doens't go particularly deep. The pleasures are largely surface level.

Having said all that, the performances are quite fine. Ellen Steele is an engaging protagonist, and Dillon Young as her friend/possible-love-interest sells geeky enthusiasm well. Amber McMahon, Matthew Whittet and Sheridan Harbridge serve well in their multiple roles, whether as Greta's only mildly dysfunctional family, as schoolkid stereotypes or strange fantasy figures.

Jonathan Oxlade's set and costume design capture the period well (and the set also has some lovely surprises to move across the very many location demands made by the script). Rosemary Meyers keeps the story tight and very much focussed on embracing the audience.

If I'm less than totally sold, this may be that I find this ultimately a fairly slight play done well. So it's worth it for the production if slightly less for the play itself.

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