A girl’s guide to taking on the world

By Mitch Gaynor

FIRST stop Maleny, next stop: the world. The return of hometown talents Katy Forde and Aleathea Monsour with their award-winning A Girl’s Guide to World War, marks a new chapter in what they hope is a breakthrough year for the hit musical.

The return of Girl’s Guide, which plays at the Maleny Community Centre for two shows only this month, follows sell-out shows at Brisbane Powerhouse and a Best New Australian Musical award at the Matilda Awards.

And while it’s been a rock ‘n roll ride for Katy and Aleathea since their first performances in 2018, they aren’t resting on their laurels, with plans for a state and national tour topped off with performing at the Edinburgh Festival.

And if that’s not enough, they’re also working on a television series spin-off as well as the production of a new musical.

“You only live once,” co-creator and director Katy said, after listing off her future plans.

“We would really love to push Girl’s Guide around the state and then nationally. And then the goal I’m aiming towards is to take it to the Edinburgh Festival and win Best Musical.” The musical centres around a handful of lady doctors in 1916 who despite wanting to go to war are told to stay home instead.

They go anyway, and what follows is a year that changes their lives forever.

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Katy said she was still amazed their research had uncovered such incredible stories of women – including Queensland’s first female doctor, the smoking, swearing lesbian surgeon, Dr Lilian Cooper.

“These women have been forgotten, and we’re passionate about bringing them back into the light where they belong,” Katy said.

Katy said despite the success of the musical there was frustration that other characters they had discovered could not be explored in more detail.

But rather than let those stories fade, she has started working towards a television series that aims to give them the recognition they deserve.

“I’ve got so many stories I can’t tell but turning it into a television series allows us that,” she said.

“For example [renowned Australian author] Miles Franklin was one of the orderlies – she is an incredible story in her own right, but we couldn’t fit it in.”

If that isn’t enough, the couple have plans to bring another musical into production by the end of the year.

“We have this musical that we love and we’ve written called ‘Lottie’ about Australia’s first female film star,” she said.

“She was secretly directing films and is a most magnificent woman. We really want to put it on.”

For Girl’s Guide most recent run, Katy has been able to step back from acting and was excited to have secured Justine Anderson and Simon Burvill-Holmes to head up the cast.

This has allowed her to continue to refine and tweak the show, something she continues to do even after three seasons. Katy said this was part of the beauty of performing in Maleny, which she likened to an “off-Broadway” opportunity.

“Most people don’t have the luxury to do this, but up here it’s like our own little off-Broadway where we can keep testing it,” she said.

“Audiences here are so supportive of changes. We can swap songs, change characters, add harmonies and movement. We’re very lucky to be able to do that.”

A Girl’s Guide to World War is showing on March 18 at 7pm and March 19 at 2pm.

Main image: The cast of a Girl’s Guide to World War