Girl Asleep

Scott Wallace
7th Dec 2016

If you've ever wondered what The Wizard of Oz might have been like had it been set in the 1970's, then Girl Asleep, the new play from playwright Matthew Whittet (Seventeen, Old Man) at Surry Hills' Belvoir St. Theatre, is your answer. The spectacularly staged production is a slightly surreal coming-of-age that plays out against a backdrop of ugly 1970's wallpaper, hilarious characters, and a selection of songs from the likes of Serge Gainsbourg, Donna Summer, Black Sabbath and Brian Eno.

Ellen Steele plays fourteen-year-old Greta, who despite being very intelligent and vividly imaginative, is shy and struggles to make friends. Starting at a new school, she bonds with the dorky but loveable Elliott (Dylan Young), who she sees as the alternative as the Farrah Fawcett-haired girls that sniff around her. More anxieties arise, however, when her family - mother Janet (Amber McMahon), father Conrad (Matthew Whittet himself) and Serge Gainsbourg-obsessed elder sister Genevieve (Sheridan Harbridge) - decide to throw her a fifteenth birthday party, and invite everyone from her year at school.

Despite the small cast of five, the brilliant staging, full of secret entrances, bathed in inspired lighting, as well as some rapid fire costume changes, turn this into a much bigger production. The use of sound and lighting is so evocative that at times it is eerie enough to be almost frightening, particularly when Greta must set off on a strange journey in search of an intangible part of herself.

The humour throughout, despite the period setting, is based around timeless archetypes that will be recognisable for younger viewers too, even if certain references fly over their heads. Despite being partly oriented toward a young adult crowd, though, Girl Asleep is a sensitive and nuanced portrayal of the awkward entry into adulthood and womanhood, and how this effects the people around Greta too. At its heart, Girl Asleep is a simple coming-of-age that is never mawkish or overly sentimental.

The fun also continues downstairs at Belvoir, with a pop-up 1970's inspired Bumper Bar, featuring pinball machines, arcade cabinets, and a NES console complete with vintage beanbag. The pop-up, which also features drinks from Coopers Brewery and Poor Toms Gin, is a fundraiser for Belvoir's Art Access Program, ensuring that innovative productions like Girl Asleep can be seen by students without the means to otherwise visit the theatre.

Girl Asleep is playing at Belvoir St. Theatre Surry Hills until Saturday December 24th. Entry to the pop-up Bumper Bar is $10 per person. Production photos by Lisa Tomasetti.

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25 Belvoir Street
Surry Hills
+61 2 9699 3444