Girls in Boys' Cars - Riverside Theatres, Parramatta (NSW)
By Felicity Castagna. Adapted and Directed by Priscilla Jackman.
Reviewed by Justin Clarke
National Theatre of Parramatta
25 October - 3 November 2023
- Experience a journey of discovery and escape through the Australian outback with this ambitious piece of theatrical storytelling -
Unearthing the nuances of female friendship, where sometimes your safest space may be your most vulnerable, Priscilla Jackman adapts and directs Felicity Castagna’s novel Girls in Boys’ Cars in an ambitious piece of theatrical storytelling. Featuring endearing performances by the ensemble cast, Girls in Boys’ Cars shows life in telling a truly Australian story, with an established resonance to the very city it’s performed in.
Told in a non-linear storytelling format, we are guided through the tumultuous road trip of our female protagonists, the withdrawn and book smart Rosa (Ziggy Resnick) and the popular, hard-shelled Asheeka (Nikita Waldron). From their vociferous dealings with the boys in their lives and theft of Asheeka’s boyfriend’s car, through to their life changing, crime-ridden journey across Australia’s sunburnt country, audiences are invited along for the ride.
The cast of Girls in Boys' Cars at Riverside Theatres, Parramatta (2023). Images by Phil Erbacher.
Jackman’s production rises to the challenge of telling a road trip story in a theatrical setting, taking us from the local McDonalds carpark, to Canberra and all the way to Parkes for an Elvis festival. There are some enlightened pieces of creativity, a desk and bench positioned neatly over hidden lights quickly becomes a truck, while projections by Mark Bolotin are layered over the backstage and screens, taking us through the inner thoughts of Rosa and the chapters of the story.
It doesn’t all work however. The use of a foldable desk as the car in which the girls journey is used as multiple set pieces, but doesn’t really captivate as the vehicle for the physical and spiritual journey from each setting of the book. There are some nice touches, the lights on the back of the desk light up the actors as the interior of the car, whereas some neatly placed projections become logos throughout. But it never truly meshes well enough to be inventive.
Resnick gives the production its beating heart as Rosa, creating a well-crafted character that had depth and believability throughout. Their journey from teenage nobody to fully formed adult was beautiful and Resnick’s childish and playful interactions with Waldron’s Asheeka gave the most joyous moments of the production.
...an artful slice of representation that invites you into it, whilst daring you to come on the journey throughout.
Playing opposite Resnick, Waldron’s Asheeka took a sterner form as the popular girl with a hard shell, hiding a fragile nature inside. Waldron’s highlights came when revelling in the free spirited nature the pairs’ journey took them on, with a subtle nod to the Thelma and Louise spirit - see if you can spot it!
Suz Mawer, Ella Prince and Alex Stamwell filled out the rest of the production taking on multiple characters of various weight and stereotype in the story to make the space feel populated by the Australiana personalities of the story.
Melanie Liertz production design created an expansive space for the actors to play around in throughout. The layered scribbles in Rosa’s book at the start of the piece captured a true atmosphere. Meanwhile the use of sliders were more of a hindrance to the production than a benefit. Whilst they were used to cast projections onto throughout and keep the boundaries of the juvenile detention centre Rosa finds herself in, the clunky nature of them were best left immobile.
It’s rare that opening nights are marred by technical errors and glitches, but unfortunately this was one of those off-occasions for the production at Riverside. No doubt the mechanics will be back in to do some fine tuning of tech and greasing the wheels of the sliders throughout the season.
The true joy from Girls in Boys’ Cars comes from the nuance and depth of both Castagna’s writing, and Jackman’s adaption of the text, led with believability by Ziggy Resnick and supported by Nikita Waldron as well as a cast of colourful characters. It’s quite beautiful to see a story set in Sydney’s west told in the very space it references. It’s an artful slice of representation that invites you into it, whilst daring you to come on the journey throughout. Don’t forget to buckle your seatbelts!
Girls in Boys' Cars
Riverside Theatres, Parramatta
Ziggy Resnick, Nikita Waldron, Suz Mawer, Ella Prince, Alex Stamell
CREATIVES Writer Felicity Castagna
Director & Adapter Priscilla Jackman
Associate Director Lucy Clements
Production Designer Melanie Liertz
Sound Designer Zac Saric
Lighting Designer Morgan Moroney
Multimedia Designer Mark Bolotin
Dramaturg Brittanie Shipway
Production Associate Hannah Crane
Stage Manager Jaime Petersen
Fight Choreographer Tim Dashwood
Intimacy Coordinator Bayley Turner