Girls In Boys’ Cars (National Theatre of Parramatta) – theatre review

For too long, stories of rebellious youth have tended to focus on boys in popular media. The troubled teenager, always misunderstood by parents and police, provides plenty of dramatic material for a good story. In Girls In Boys’ Cars, a female version of angst during those all too important adolescent years gets a thorough airing. From the novel by Felicity Castagna, Director Priscilla Jackman has adapted it for the stage. She has created an edgy tale of two girls trying to fit in to the teenage, male-dominated world of after-school Parramatta.

Using the carpark of McDonalds as their headquarters, boys and their souped-up cars gather to show off and boast about their real and imagined sexual conquests. Girls are an accessory, like a highly desired car part, but the hot wheels will still impress whether they are there or not. Told through the eyes of Rosa (Ziggy Resnick), Girls In Boys’ Cars, is a journey of self-discovery and empowerment for a girl unsure of who she is, wants to be or where to go. Bullied at school and isolated at home, Rosa is befriended by the outgoing and confident Asheeka (Nikita Waldron). Opposites in many ways, they draw on the strengths of each other. In doing so, they gain a new level of independence from family, society and ‘boys’ and set a course for their future life stories.

It is also a journey through country New South Wales. “It’s Friday night, all the boys will be down at Macca’s soon. What a girl needs is a car of her own” says Asheeka. And with that, the two girls steal Asheeka’s abusive boyfriends’ car and set off from Parramatta. They take us to Canberra, then Jindabyne, up to Parkes and back to Parra. They encounter abusive cowboys, bushfires and the Elvis festival. Dirty secrets are made public and their friendship is tested to its limits. Rosa can now stand on her own. Her ‘go to’ therapist is her trusted journal.

Girls In Boys’ Cars, descends into some dark places. And yes, teenage years can be hard to handle. However, amidst all the racism, loneliness, sexual assault and rebellion, there must be room for hope and love. Production standards were very good. Using a minimalist stage design, storytelling was aided by large sliding screens, overhead road maps, fog machines and wheeled tables.

Girls In Boys’ Cars, will be popular with local audiences. References to “Macca’s” were a little overdone and male roles seemed stereotyped. However, the central message of self-discovery was effective. As Rosa’s counsellor commented, “We are all made of different stories… we just need to know which one we want to be”.

Girls In Boys’ Cars is at Riverside Theatres, Church Street, Parramatta until 5 November 2023. Bookings: https://riversideparramatta.com.au/

Paul Kiely
For more of Paul Kiely’s writings on theatre, check out Absolute Theatre

Other reviews you might enjoy: