Study Guide

Girl Asleep

About this guide

This education resource has been developed by Windmill Theatre Co for the production Girl Asleep with links to the Australian Curriculum F-2 and the Early Years Learning Framework. Activities have been created to suit each of the achievement standards from Years F to 2 and content descriptions within each learning area as well as the general capabilities. This resource provides teachers with information to help prepare students before attending the performance, as well as structured learning activities for the classroom after viewing the performance. General Capabilities The general capabilities are embedded within specific learning activities in this Study Guide and can be identified with the following icons:

The general capabilities are embedded within specific learning activities and can be identified with the following icons:

Synopsis

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, 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.

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.

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.

Did you know Girl Asleep was originally part of a trilogy of plays for teenage audiences.

The other plays were Fugitive and School Dance.

Cast and Creatives

Matthew Whittet

Writer, Performer

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 CinderellaThe Book Of Everything and Conversation Piece.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Amber McMahon

Performer

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.

Ellen Steele

Performer

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).

Antoine Jelk

Performer

Antoine graduated from Flinders Drama Centre in 2014. Most recently, Antoine appeared in Long Tan (Brink Productions) directed by Chris Drummond. He has performed as part of many productions for independent Adelaide theatre companies.

Did you know Girl Asleep was adapted into a film in 2015.

The film won many awards including an AACTA for Best Costume Design.

Characters

Greta

The hero of the story. Greta is turning 15 and is chronically shy. Her parents have planned a birthday party,  which her whole year is invited to and she is terrified. There’s a lot she’s afraid to face.

Genevieve

Greta’s older sister Genevieve is 17, and an enigma. She loves 70’s French crooner Serge Gainsbourg and styles herself on French actress Jean Seberg. She is definitely prickly, but may hold the answers that Greta is searching for.

Janet

Greta’s mother likes a drink and looks on her youth as a beautiful and distant past. A faded beauty queen,  she feels trapped in a now loveless marriage and pines for what could have been.

Conrad

Greta’s dad Conrad loves telling bad jokes but loves his little girl even more. He does anything for her, but deep down he never wants her to grow up.

Elliott

Greta’s best friend Elliott is an odd fish. He’s 14, has no other friends except his six guinea pigs, has a plastic toy pig collection and can’t believe he’s found a friend like Greta.

Jade and Umber

The twins from school are terrifyingly popular, dangerously vain and viciously nasty. Jade does all the talking  but Umber says nothing, boring a hole deep into your soul with her blank stare.

Denise Mackel

The girl at school with the lazy eye and a tendency to use an outdoor voice at all times. She’s keen on Elliott and wants to do raspberries on his belly.

Finn Greta

Greta’s pen pal from Finland. They’ve never met in person, but have a great rapport nonetheless. She’s ever so friendly, but is just a little on the anxious side.

Crone

A mysterious witch… She comes for something that belongs to Greta…

Serge Gainsbourg

A famous French crooner from the 60’s and 70’s. Provocative and raunchy, known for his overt, sexually charged songs.

Firebird

A creature not unlike Genevieve, the Firebird is the mysterious Phoenix who is just passing through…

Queen

A creature of ice, danger and deep sadness, the Frozen Queen is not unlike Greta’s mum Janet…

Goblin

A hideous creature made of spit and bile; he loves telling jokes and is unexpectedly protective of Greta… not unlike her father Conrad…”

Little Greta

Greta when she was 8 years old.

Note from the 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.

Performance Literacy

Students viewing live theatre can experience feelings of joy, sadness, anger, wonder and empathy. It can engage their imaginations and invite them to make meaning of their world and their place within it. They can consider new possibilities as they immerse themselves in familiar and not so familiar stories.

Watching theatre also helps students understand the language of the theatre. It is part of the holistic approach to developing student literacy. They learn to ‘read’ the work interpreting the gesture and movement of a performer; deconstructing the designers’ deliberate manipulation of colour, symbol and sound; and reflecting on the director’s and playwright’s intended meaning.

While viewing the show, students’ responses can be immediate as they laugh, cry, question and applaud. After the performance, it is also extremely valuable to provide opportunities for discussion, encouraging students to analyse and comprehend how these responses were evoked by the creatives through the manipulation of production elements and expressive skills.

Having a strong knowledge and understanding of theatre terminology will assist students with this process. Therefore, before coming to see Girl Asleep with your students, explore the different roles involved in making a performance happen, from writing, directing and performing, to lighting, projection, set and costume design and construction.

Theatre Etiquette

Visiting the theatre is very exciting. There are some guidelines that students can follow regarding appropriate behaviour in the theatre and during the performance that will allow their visit to be even more memorable.  Prior to visiting the theatre prepare students for what they will experience as an audience member using the following questions:

Where can you sit?

  • An usher (front of house – FOH) will help you find your seat so you need to follow their directions.

How do you know when the performance begins?

  • The lights will dim and/or you might hear a voice-over or sound. That’s your cue that it has begun and it is time to settle and be quiet.

How is going to the theatre different to going to the movies or watching television in your loungeroom?

  • Something unique to theatre is that it is ‘live’ and the actors are real. You can hear and see the actors, and they can hear and see you.

What is the relationship between the audience and the performers?

  • As the actors can see and hear you, your responses to the performance show your appreciation to the actors. So, show your enjoyment!

Final points to remember:

  • turn off your mobile phone (even the vibration of a phone or lit screen is distracting);
  • avoid eating in the theatre and rustling paper;
  • cover coughs and sneezes;
  • don’t film or photograph the performance due to intellectual ownership.

Curriculum links and activities

Coming soon

Coming soon



Acknowledgements

Produced by Windmill Theatre Co. Original study guide created by Drama Education Specialist Julie Orchard. Updated in 2018.

The activities and resources contained in this document are designed for educators as the starting point for developing more comprehensive lessons for this work.

© Copyright protects this Education Resource. Except for purposes permitted by the Copyright Act, reproduction by whatever means is prohibited. However, limited photocopying for classroom use only is permitted by educational institutions.

This resource is proudly supported by the South Australian Department for Education and the Lang Foundation.

  •  Lang Foundation
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