What would you do if you found Kate Sheppard in your bed?

I’ll be honest, I don’t really know, but Modern Girls in Bed attempts to find out.

Ally (Maria Williams) and Petra (Isadora Lao) are two young women holding their own Bed-In together, not for Peace, but to improve the dreariness of their lives. They intend to stay in bed forever – or at least until their lives get less shit.

However, as they stage their protest, Ally’s history books come to life, transporting five trailblazing wāhine from Aotearoa’s history into their bed and into their modern lives. Kate Sheppard (Amy Tarleton), Katherine Mansfield (Alex Lodge), Helen Hitchings (Renée Sheridan), Heni Pore (Bronwyn Turei) and Akenehi Hei (Maia Diamond) have their own anecdotes and wisdom to impart, but find that their comments – despite coming from pioneering women of Kiwi history – jar with the ideals that modern women hold true.

How does Kate Sheppard see Jacinda Ardern’s life as the Prime Minister and a mother?

(Other such questions are also asked.)

The second act opens by turning the entire concept on its head. In lieu of dreaded spoilers, I won’t delve too much into how exactly that happens, but the act itself is a poignant coda to the wild energy and manicism of the first half. The Bed-In – and the women of history – become more than just a simple protest against life’s little issues, and grow into symbols of one woman’s inability to come to terms with her grief.

It’s a unique and powerful premise if I’ve ever seen one.

One does wonder if the frequent (and somewhat grating) colloquial use of the word ‘actually’ in Ally and Petra’s speech – presumably to mimic the way young people talk (or maybe even satirise it) – is entirely necessary, but it hardly detracts from the strength of the piece after a while and is quickly skimmed over.

Modern Girls in Bed is a wonderful tale of sisterhood, strength and sadness. While it is not exactly what you’d expect from the onset – and frequently has moments that don’t quite make coherent sense – it’s an intensely strong script performed by just as strong actors and absolutely should be seen while you can.

Modern Girls in Bed is being performed at Circa Theatre from now until the 22nd of September 2018. Visit Circa’s website for more details.