The Windmill Theatre is a local production company with big ambitions, none more so than performing their entire trilogy of coming-of-age plays at this year’s Festival.
At this year’s Adelaide Festival, Artistic Director David Sefton didn’t need to search far to find the perfect candidate to fulfil his mission of offering more events for children and teenagers. The Windmill Theatre is a local production company with big ambitions, none more so than performing their entire trilogy of coming-of-age plays at this year’s Festival. New play Girl Asleep, Fugitive and 2012 Adelaide Festival favourite School Dance will make up the trilogy taking part in the 2014 Adelaide Festival. Windmill’s Artistic Director, Rosemary Myers says performing the trilogy for the Adelaide Festival is a “dream come true”. “It’s so great for us because the works are created out of the popular culture – they’re a recapitulation of the popular culture – and it’s so exciting to see works for this demographic included in this year’s Festival. It’s stuff that I think young people will really enjoy.” One of the common themes that link the trilogy is something that Myers thinks almost every adult would have been able to relate to at some point – being an outsider. She applauds playwright Matthew Whittet for telling the stories of the outsiders (“losers” and “painfully shy” characters are the protagonists in School Dance and Girl Asleep respectively) which helps unite audiences. “We do make work for a whole range of different audiences, but this [adolescence] is a really big audience for us. It’s an audience that people across the board think is quite a tough audience to actually get to the theatre. A lot of people don’t go near that audience. We think the issue is more that there isn’t a lot of theatre particularly made for that audience.” Myers believes that by making theatre relatable to youth audiences, using popular culture, music and technology to draw them in, it can engage with the target audience without alienating outsiders. School Dance is a textbook example of a play about adolescence gaining mainstream popularity. “School Dance has actually been a huge hit for a lot of different age groups. I think that’s the thing about it – in the end it’s just really good theatre. We had a month of School Dance at the Sydney Theatre Company as part of the Sydney Festival in January this year and it was a total sell-out there. The shows really do appeal to older audiences well. Everyone’s been a teenager.” While the trilogy doesn’t need to be viewed in chronological order, as they are all completely separate productions, there are elements of Fugitive, School Dance and Girl Asleep that tie them together cohesively. “They all tell about these defining moments in young people’s lives. I also think the way they’re connected is by that idea and the form of the work. They’re very different stories; we play with the use of design and we play with the language of the screen. We use a lot of fast cuts and montage, and doing it live on stage makes a really good impact on the audience. It’s about being inventive and asking them to be inventive when they’re watching it.” Using the same lighting, music and production team for each play helps build a sense of familiarity between them, and each play has its own ‘how did they do that?’ moment – be it School Dance’s BMX chase, Girl Asleep’s transformation of paper cranes to pen friends to Fugitive’s Storm Troopers and magic backpacks with secret powers. Having all three plays of the trilogy performed in succession was not on the agenda for Windmill until they were approached by Sefton, who Myers says has been a huge supporter of the company since he moved to Adelaide, attending each of their shows and singing their praises. When being told that the third part of the trilogy (Girl Asleep) might be something worth looking at for the Festival, Sefton replied with, “No, come on, let’s do the whole trilogy”. “He’s really bold and I think his Festival program is brilliant,” gushes Myers. ” All the artists are so excited to be in that program with some of the international and local acts. I think it’ll be a wild Festival, actually.” Windmill will take up residency in the Space Theatre during the Festival to house their three plays, and while they “might all fall over” come the end of March; the rest of 2014 is proving to be a busy and prosperous year for the company, who are pioneering Adelaide’s reputation as a basis for strong and clever theatre. “I remember seeing a Tweet when we were at the Sydney Festival earlier [in 2013] saying, ‘What’s in the water in Adelaide?’ There were three shows from Adelaide there… A lot of South Australian companies are kicking big goals out there.”