Lennox Theatre, October 21
Felicity Castagna’s racy novel about two teenaged girls behaving badly certainly has the makings of a movie, and perhaps a play – but this was not quite it. In adapting the book for the stage, Priscilla Jackman has lost some of the fizz and lightness of tone, and as director she hasn’t fully extracted the requisite performances from her two leads: Ziggy Resnick as Rosa, the narrator, and Nikita Waldron as Asheeka.
Rosa and Asheeka attend a Parramatta girl’s school, where the main extracurricular activities are daubing on too much makeup, cruising in the back of loud, lowered cars and dining at McDonald’s. You can understand why they suspect life contains more options. Having been treated like dirt once too often by her boyfriend, Asheeka drives off in his iridescent blue Falcon with a wide-eyed Rosa beside her. After the spontaneous theft, their only option is to keep driving.
It’s a road movie in the guise of a novel and then dramatised (for National Theatre of Parramatta). The last part was a big ask, with the solution calling for greater or lesser amounts of either technological and theatrical wizardry or audience imagination. In the event, Jackman and her design team may have overcomplicated the wizardry and underestimated their audience.
Opening night glitches with gauzy screens that track across stage were entirely forgivable in themselves, but perhaps point to the solutions having been overthought. The resultant delays must have been challenging for the cast, but the performances and characterisations don’t consistently have the ring of truth, anyway. Lines that work in Castagna’s pages sound more author-driven than character-driven when spoken, such as girls “disappearing into their own anger” and “learning to walk in my own body”.
Much, however, is commendable about both the writing and the production, notably the complexity of the love/hate relationship between Rosa and Asheeka. This begins with the latter making the former visible in a world that has ignored her, and progresses to their being there for each other, being rivals, and trying to reconcile their mutual betrayals.
Jackman has Suz Mawer, Ella Prince and Alex Stamell sharing some 20 other roles, and performing with an emphasis on physicality and such devices as unison line delivery. There’s an intensity in this ensemble work that may contain the less literal key to fully unlocking the book as a play.