Little girls like unicorns and glitter. Big girls tear each others’ hair out and spread rumours. And society tells girls what they should or shouldn’t do. Who to trust, who to trust…
In an enthralling excavation of the culture of the slumber party and the psychology of the young female sexual identity, The Kate Cameron Company Theatre Productions exposes the torments and privileges of the millennial age in their presentation of Bedtime Stories for Girls. This refreshing new play by Genevieve Atkins does not shy from showing the light and the shade, the fickle and the solid, the angel and the monster that is the easily influenced psychosocial attitude of the angsty high schooler in her early years. Sometimes flowing and sometimes jolting in edge-of-your-seat spontaneity in its self-contrast, the play moves between moments and themes true to a young woman’s sexual awakenings under the ironic microscope of naivety, pointing out the parallels of the female body amongst friends during the biological development yet also highlighting their quick judgments in the fear of difference.
With such subtle depth in the themes being represented by very shallow-presenting characters, Director Kate Cameron and Assistant Director Sandy Whittem could only have had a difficult task of genuinely reflecting the teenage mind in all of her anxieties and her inner conflicts. However, the final product is slick and precise, realising this paradoxical shallow depth. Although set up like a casual sleepover with gossip galore, the piece unravels the landscape of high school in all of its dramas, juxtaposing the fluffy discussion with heightened panics and moments of utmost distress in the very contained and should-be trusting space of their friend’s bedroom. With each performer being allowed their moments, their input and their journey within the piece, Cameron’s and Whittem’s directorial choices realise the uniquenesses of each character and their dampened expression in the face of losing rapport within their group, undermining social influence and its unhealthy grip. The teenagers were often lying or sitting on the floor in their materialistic séance circle, ready to sacrifice the rapport of one of their schoolmates to summon a demonic rumour. The performers themselves, featuring Natalie Fenwick, Serena Meltner, Chanel Rodway and writer herself Genevieve Atkins, utilise the casual direction and interwoven conventions written into the piece to their advantage, playing the characters quite authentically despite their underlying caricatures. Bouncing along to the beat of the same drum despite their nuanced differences, Bedtime Stories for Girls gives us the surface of a sleepover before shattering it, spilling its contents messily as the emotions wash over.
Morphing the compact cabaret stage of the Butterfly Club
into the teenager’s bedroom without needing additional set, we are immediately
taken through the neutrals to the world of our teenage clique. A dimension of
black is shifted into the pyjamas, loose hair, unpainted faces and crumpled
bedding we all know from our youth, truthfully establishing the young woman’s
bedroom away from the rest of world, presented like a safe haven but challenged
from within its own walls. Technician Jason Crick actualises the various
minimal production designs when needed, striking the lighting changes with
precision and playing the Composer Josh Clarke’s original songs for our onstage
entourage to sing to and wave their hands around; these designs seem mostly
conducive with the piece, despite the lengthiness of the songs and the
recurring blackouts confusing the timeline a little, giving the allure of
multiple sleepovers or, at least, multiple nights. It can be said that the show
ran incredibly short for what was expected, running for no longer than 45 minutes
and feeling stuck in the middle of a storyline with no real beginning or end,
becoming more of an analysis than a message; its usage of multitudinous
conventions and stylistic approaches to top the already lacking story came to
create the vibe of a fleshed-out VCE Theatre Studies ensemble piece done well.
All in all, despite these last critiques, this production stands up to its name
and delivers a clever evening allegory. We
are lucky in that we get to choose our friends, matching our energies and our passions
and our opinions with them in a manner that serves all in camaraderie. However,
when we are too young to know or ground these traits and to understand the
things that are fundamentally us, we often resort to guidance in lieu with our
insecurities, listening to or lashing out on ideas we don’t quite understand as
a way to fit in. Searching for one’s identity is a tormenting process, and we
often seek the safe route to protect our skins rather than our sense of self.
Girls will be girls!