Girl Asleep

Part fairytale and part lipstick-smeared vigilante escapade.

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About

Part of the Trilogy

Greta Driscoll is chronically shy and privately falling apart.

Frozen in the spotlight of her fifteenth birthday, things go from bad to worse when a stranger arrives propelling her into a parallel place; a latent world that’s weirdly erotic, ultra violent and thoroughly ludicrous. 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.

  • Recommended for age
  • Theatre
  • 90 minutes

Awards

  • 2015 Australian Writers Guild Award: Nomination: Matthew Whittet

Highlights from the Show

A Note from the Director

Rosemary Myers

Girl Asleep premiered in 2014 as the third part in a trilogy, which saw Windmill Theatre Co collaborate and develop a theatrical language over several years with a group of artists who shared similar aesthetics and passions.

Each trilogy production is self-contained but at the heart of the works are rites-of-passage stories focused on the teenage years; this high stakes, often painful time of life that is also full of possibility as you begin to carve out your own place in the world.

In Girl Asleep, our protagonist, Greta Driscoll is clinging to her childhood. She is shy and plays it under the radar in a new school in the 1970s, a significant era for feminism in Australia. Girl Asleep focuses on the latent (as Freud would say, feminine) aspect of adolescence. All that time you spend in your own mind escaping, contemplating, and dreaming. Greta starts as a passive protagonist and the play is the story of her activation. Writer Matthew Whittet brings this terrain to life with his poignant telling of the outsider story, of friendship and family, and his hilarious and deeply affecting characters that are embodied by our excellent actors.

With the talents of our creative team members Jonathon, Luke and Richard, we have sought to make these worlds vibrant and alive through the use of recapitulated popular culture, and the combination of old school theatrics and contemporary production techniques.

The amazing experience of making this theatre show did not stop with the trilogy when, through the HIVE fund (an Adelaide Film Festival initiative), we were able to transfer our theatrical language to the big screen and create a feature film based on our play. Creating the film was another chapter of this ride and an opportunity to explore this story in a brand new medium.

We had the opportunity to refine this work again when we revisited the play at Belvoir in 2016. Living with Girl Asleep over the past four years through the play and film, there have been so many different drafts that the spell checks of both Matt and I have defaulted to correct the word ‘great’ to ‘Greta’.

A large and diverse worldwide audience has now enjoyed our Girl Asleep story, many tapping into their inner teenager. For us, the experience of returning to perform the show to a live audience, with lots of teenagers in the room, is truly adrenaline-charged. This is its true home.

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A Note from the Writer

Matthew Whittet

Girl Asleep is about closing the doors of childhood and opening up the strange and incongruous doors of adolescence. Of the vast changes that occur inside the minds, hearts and bodies of kids at this crazy time of life. Of how truly difficult it is to be a teenager. Of how enormous things are. Of how emotional things can be, and how exhilarating the ride can be. The peaks are high, and the troughs are not. They’re the times I look back on as an adult, and know that the seeds of who I am now were planted at those exact moments. That only now can I see how important certain moments were when I was 14 or 15. That some of the battles I fought then were the ones that define so much of who I am now.

Girl Asleep started with a handful of elements. We knew that we wanted it to be a young girl’s journey. That she’d be a hero, and do incredibly brave things. We knew that we wanted to set it in the 1970’s. We knew we wanted to look at the ideas behind the tale of Sleeping Beauty, and at this strange time in some young kids’ lives where they seem to retreat. Like sleepwalkers. Eyes lowered, voices at almost a whisper, looking for all the world to not even be there. But beneath this somnolence and quiet, a storm rages. One that often threatens to swallow them whole. One that involves impossible challenges and fierce battles. Battles that they must face whether they like it or not. Otherwise they might remain asleep forever. Trapped in the challenges they never managed to overcome. And for Greta, our chronically shy hero, all this happens. And more. On the night of her 15th birthday, a party happens that she never even wanted. A party where everyone is invited. Even her worst fears and nightmares.

The journey of this story has been a long and incredible one. It started as the third play in a trilogy of teenage stories, along with Fugitive and School Dance – which were all performed in repertory at the 2014 Adelaide Festival of Arts. Then it transformed its way into becoming a screenplay, which was made by the same team – along with some excellent new additions, and has gone on to find a whole new life and audience. Greta’s story has had a life and an energy all of its own. For which I’m eternally grateful.

All these works – Fugitive, School Dance and both permutations of Girl Asleep – have been made with an immense amount of joy, silliness, craft and heart. They are all about friendship in one way or another, and they have all sprung from a friendship amongst the most excellent bunch of theatre brains. Generous, excitable and infinitely imaginative people, who all know the value of a good fart joke. Seriously.

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A Note from the Set and Costume Designer

Jonathon Oxlade

What an excellent adventure this story is. Goblins, queens, animated toy horses, famous French crooners, all carefully smooshed together in a surreal 1970s marble cake of a show. It’s a fantastic journey from the everyday into the deep subconscious.

In staging Girl Asleep, we wanted to create a space that was both domestic and familiar, which transforms into something surreal and foreign. And we thought it would be even more interesting if the two could morph into one another, that our set could fall into a dangerous dreamscape, just like Greta does. We liked the idea that the domestic space could feel a little bit like a sitcom living room set, the main ‘hive’ where the family play out their daily scenarios before the extraordinary takes over.

Originally the liminal world, or the middle bit of the play, was set in a forest. We decided early on that the best way to represent this altered space on stage was to transform the living room into a ‘netherworld’,rather than travelling to an actual forest. By morphing the familiar space in front of the audience’s eyes, we get more of a sense of entering Greta’s dream world.

As an era, the 1970’s is close to everyone’s heart, and in Girl Asleep we really get to fly with some of our favourite iconic symbols from the period. There was lots of fun to be had referencing some excellent fashion moments; where dads wore short shorts and mums wore pantsuits. We looked to David Bowie for colour inspiration, The Brady Bunch for classic silhouettes and Carrie for high school mean girls.

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Meet the Cast & Creative Team

  • Matthew Whittet

    Writer, Cast

    Matthew is an actor and writer who has worked extensively in theatre, film and television for the past 19 years. As an actor, Matt has performed for Belvoir many times, most recently in productions Cinderella, The Book Of Everything and Conversation Piece.

    His film credits include Girl Asleep, The Great Gatsby, Australia, You Can’t Stop the Murders and Moulin Rouge. Matt’s collaboration with Windmill has resulted in four plays with Girl Asleep being the most recent. Its predecessors are the Helpmann and Sydney Theatre Awards winning School Dance and Big Bad Wolf. Matt’s feature film adaptation of his play Girl Asleep (supported by The Hive Production Fund) debuted at the Adelaide Film Festival and went on to open the 2016 Generation 14 Plus Program at Berlin International Film Festival. Matt’s latest play Fight with All Your Might the Zombies of The Night, winner of the 2015 Foundation Commission Award, will premiere at ATYP in November 2016. Matt was among the seven Sidney Myer Creative Fellows chosen in 2012.

  • Rosemary Myers

    Director

    Under Rose’s leadership as Artistic Director, Windmill creates and presents work inspired by the vibrancy, sophistication and inventiveness of young people and the exhilarating challenges they pose to creating theatre of relevance in this modern time.

    Rose is a multi-Helpmann Award nominated director, her productions regularly visit leading stages and festivals around Australia and the world, including the Sydney Opera House, Hong Kong’s Arts and Leisure Centre and New York’s New Victory Theatre. Her directing credits for Windmill include Pinocchio, The Wizard Of Oz, Fugitive, School Dance, Big Bad Wolf and Girl Asleep. Prior to Windmill, Rosemary was the Artistic Director of Arena Theatre Company and Artistic Director of Queensland Performing Arts Centre’s Out of the Box Festival in 2010.

  • Jonathon Oxlade

    Designer

    Jonathon studied Illustration and Sculpture at The Queensland College of Art and has designed sets and costumes in Australia for Windmill Theatre Co, Queensland Theatre, LaBoite Theatre, Is This Yours?, Aphids, Circa, Arena Theatre Company and many more.

    Jonathon has also designed for venues and festivals including the Sydney Opera House, Melbourne Festival, Brisbane Festival, Asia TOPA, Adelaide Festival and Fringe, The Malthouse, Performance Space and the Queensland Art Gallery. He illustrated the picture book The Empty City for Hachette Livre/Lothian and the Edie Amelia series by Sophie Lee. Jonathon is currently the Resident Designer at Windmill Theatre Co and won his first AACTA Award for Costume Design in 2016 for his work on Windmill’s debut film, Girl Asleep. Jonathon is also a recipient of the 2017 Sidney Myer Creative Fellowship.

  • Luke Smiles

    Original Soundtrack

    Luke creates highly detailed soundtracks for theatre, dance and film, working across all areas of music composition, sound design, foley and sound effects editing. His work is enjoyed by audiences both nationally and around the world.

    Working under his business name motion laboratories, Luke has composed and produced soundtracks for many Australian and international artists & companies. Various credits include: ʻGʼ (Australian Dance Theatre), Double Think (Byron Perry), Glow (Chunky Move), I left my shoes on warm concrete and stood in the rain (Gabrielle Nankivell), The Maids (Sydney Theatre Company), Wildebeest (Sydney Dance Company), Fugitive, School Dance and Girl Asleep (Windmill Theatre Co).

  • Richard Vabre

    Lighting Designer

    Richard is a freelance lighting designer. He has lit productions for Melbourne Theatre Company, Sydney Theatre Company, Malthouse Theatre, Victorian Opera, Windmill Theatre Co, Arena Theatre Company, NICA and The Darwin Festival.
    He has also designed the lighting for Stuck Pig’s Squealing, Chambermade, Rawcus, Red Stitch, Polyglot, Melbourne Worker’s Theatre, Aphids and many productions at La Mama Awards. Richard has won 4 Green Room Awards including the Association’s John Truscott Prize for Excellence in Design (2004). He has also been nominated for 7 other Green Room Awards.

  • Gabrielle Nankivell

    Movement Consultant

    Gabrielle has worked independently and been commissioned by leading dance companies and training institutions. She maintains a collaborative creative practice with composer Luke Smiles. Her work has been widely presented across the world.
    This includes Australia, Europe and Asia. 2016 commissions include the critically acclaimed Wildebeest for Sydney Dance Company, Thorn for Tasdance and Focus for Frontier Danceland Singapore. Gabrielle also provides choreography and movement consultancy across various stage and film productions. Recent engagements include State Theatre Company of South Australia’s The Popular Mechanicals, Windmill Theatre’s award-winning School Dance, Girl Asleep and Girl Asleep the film. Gabrielle honed her dance career in Europe performing for Belgian artists Alexander Baervoets and Ultima Vez/Wim Vandekeybus and collaborating with Jurij Konjar (Slovenia), Raul Maia (Portugal) and Thomas Steyaert (Belgium).

  • Amber McMahon

    Cast

    Amber McMahon is an award-winning actor who has worked extensively in theatre for the past 12 years. She graduated from Flinders University Drama Centre in 2002 and has since worked across the country and abroad with a host of leading companies.
    These include Melbourne Theatre Company, Malthouse Theatre, Sydney Theatre Company, Belvoir Theatre, State Theatre Company of South Australia, Queensland Theatre Company and Windmill Theatre Co. Amber’s most recent theatre credits include Belvoir’s Twelfth Night and Angels in America, Ensemble Theatre’s Tribes, Malthouse Theatre’s Picnic at Hanging Rock, State Theatre Company South Australia’s The Popular Mechanicals, Melbourne Theatre Company’s North by Northwest, Windmill Theatre Co’s Girl Asleep and School Dance, for which she won the 2013 Helpmann Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Play.

  • Ellen Steele

    Cast

    Ellen graduated from Flinders Drama Centre in 2006 and has since worked extensively in theatre both within Australia and overseas. Credits include Between Two Waves, Holding the Man, Maestro (STCSA), Love, Ruby Bruise (Vitalstatistix), Wolf (Slingsby).She has also performed in I Am Not An Animal, I Animal (The Border Project), Mr McGee and the Biting Flea (Patch Theatre Company), Grug, Girl Asleep, Big Bad Wolf, Grug and the Rainbow (Windmill Theatre Co). Ellen is a founding member of independent theatre company isthisyours? and has also developed work with independent artists and companies throughout Adelaide and Melbourne. She was involved in Goodbye, CSIRAC (Zoe Meagher) and Kids Can Get Lost (Split Second) as part of Next Wave Festival, Au Revoir Abattoir (Little Black Box), Audio Commentary (isthisyours?) and Crawl Me Blood (Aphids) as part of Adhocracy, I Left You This Way (FOLA) and The Plains (Sanctum Theatre).

     

  • Sheridan Harbridge

    Cast

    Sheridan studied at NIDA, graduating in 2006. She is an actor, playwright, singer and comedienne. Her musical Songs for the Fallen won Best Musical and Outstanding actress at the New York Music Theatre Festival in 2015, and toured across Australia. Venues include Sydney Festival, Arts Centre Melbourne, and Brisbane Festival. Her cabaret Mrs.Bang: A Series of Seductions in 55 Minutes appeared in Brisbane Festival, Sydney Festival, Edinburgh Fringe, Adelaide Cabaret Festival, the 32nd Stage Song Review in Poland, and the Opera House, receiving a Green Room Award nomination, Best Cabaret at Melbourne Fringe in 2010. This year she is a Griffin Theatre Studio Resident.

  • Dylan Young

    Cast

    One of Dylan’s first TV roles was in the 2009 in the HBO series The Pacific produced by DreamWorks. Recently Dylan appeared in Foxtel’s mystery thriller series The Kettering Incident produced by Porchlight Films, starring Elizabeth Debicki and Matt Le Nevez. In 2015, he appeared in the Matchbox Pictures/Foxtel epic war mini-series Deadline Gallipoli starring Sam Worthington, Hugh Dancy and Charles Dance and the Wayne Blair directed mini-series Cleverman. Prior to that he appeared alongside Don Hany, Jack Thompson and Toni Collette in the critically acclaimed 6 part Matchbox Pictures/Foxtel series The Devil’s Playground, a sequel to the 1976 film of the same name directed by Fred Schepisi.

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WHAT THE CRITICS SAY

"A swirl of colour and movement."

THE AUSTRALIAN

"Matthew Whittet’s big-hearted coming-of-age tale rode high on Rosemary Myers’ slick direction and energetic comic performances and elaborate sets and costumes."

THE AGE

"Vivacious and memorable…has all the bright, bold, energetic hallmarks of earlier works."

THE AUSTRALIAN

"Eamon Farren is endearing as Elliot"

THE AUSTRALIAN

"Ellen Steele plays Greta with utter charm and conviction, the light in the room who gives everyone else a chance to shine."

THE ADVERTISER

"Familiar blend of fantasy, comedy and gentle sentiment aimed at all audiences."

THE AUSTRALIAN

"Eamon Farren is pitch perfect as Greta’s awkward but brave friend Elliot."

THE ADVERTISER

"Girl Asleep is a memorable show, bringing together the entertaining absurdity of dreams and the struggles of adolescent life in a perfect mix. Girl Asleep is definitely something special."

GLAM ADELAIDE

"Windmill’s collaboration with Whittet continues to thrive."

THE AUSTRALIAN

"Girl Asleep is an excellent night out for both adults and almost-adults."

INDAILY

"One of the Adelaide Festival’s most loved performances."

GLAM ADELAIDE

Credits

  • Writer, Cast Matthew Whittet
  • Director Rosemary Myers
  • Designer Jonathon Oxlade
  • Original Soundtrack Luke Smiles
  • Lighting Designer Richard Vabre
  • Movement Consultant Gabrielle Nankivell
  • Cast Amber McMahon
  • Cast Ellen Steele
  • Cast Sheridan Harbridge
  • Cast Dylan Young

Acknowledgements

A Windmill Theatre Co production

2016 season presented by Belvoir. 2014 original season presented by Windmill Theatre Co and Adelaide Festival. This project received special funding from Major Commissions and Festival Commissioning Fund Through Arts SA and 2014 Adelaide Festival.

Listen to the Soundtrack

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