Play explores dynamics of the school dance

The school dance has always been the perfect setting for thick lines to be drawn between the circles of the popular students and the nerds.

So Matthew Whittet decided to create a comedy stage play that examines how awkward teens deal with such situations.

In School Dance, Whittet plays one of three teens who embark on the journey of every geeky teenager's worst nightmare.

"We start outside the school dance waiting to go in and I just freak out and turn invisible," Whittet says.

"It's like an external journey of a school dance and then it turns into an internal journey, a dreamscape journey, of me being invisible and my friends having to try and save me from being invisible for the rest of my life.

"It's the notion of invisibility and what invisibility means to a teenager."

Johnathon Oxlade and Luke Smiles are Whittet's two friends and they are joined on stage by Amber McMahon, who takes on all the female roles of the show, and Dapto pro-wrestler Ben Coles, who appears in the "small but pivotal role" of The Bully.

Whittet, Oxlade and Smiles all contributed to the writing and decided to keep their names as the trio of misfits.

"It just kind of happened when we started writing - it let us feel like we owned our own characters," Whittet says.

Amber McMahon, left, Matthew Whittet, Luke Smiles and Johnathon Oxladestar in School Dance. Picture: LISA TOMASETTI

Amber McMahon, left, Matthew Whittet, Luke Smiles and Johnathon Oxladestar in School Dance. Picture: LISA TOMASETTI

"We've taken bits and pieces of experience from the three of us - we're all in our mid to late 30s - so it's partial truth and partial fiction.

"No matter how old you are you can look back and realise how ridiculous it [high school] is."

The three main cast members have juggled multiple roles - Oxland is also a designer and Smiles is the sound designer.

Whittet graduated from NIDA in 1997 and is an accomplished actor but is relatively new to writing, while Oxland and Smiles are experienced writers but new to the stage.

The show is suitable for ages 14 up, with just a bit of swearing.

There will be a mix of '80s music, and Whittet jokes that there could be a very classy Spandau Ballet song at the end of the show, as well as a BMX bike-riding scene that includes the Bonnie Tyler hit Holding Out For a Hero.

"It's a very demanding show physically. We run a million miles an hour with a whole lot of sequences and costume changes," he says.

"Pretty much a lot of the show bounces from one crazy thing to another. It's a real joy to see people in the audience going 'what?'. It's crazy teenage lateral humour."

School Dance is a Windmill Theatre production and is directed by Rosemary Myers. From Wollongong, the show moves to the Melbourne Comedy Festival.


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