Black Swan Theatre Company and the Malthouse Theatre team up to bring audiences in Melbourne and Perth the ultimate Australian Gothic tale. Tom Wright’s adaptation of Joan Lindsay’s classic novel is an absolute triumph. The lilting story-telling combined with realistic dialogue provide an almost dream-like quality to the entire production.
Do you think you know the story of Picnic at Hanging Rock? Immediately conjuring up images of bonnets, flowing loose white dresses caught on bushes at exposed ankles, school girls shrilly screaming ‘Miranda!’ – and the ubiquitous pan-pipes so iconically used in the famous film. This production is so much more than that.
Five school girls recite the story, playing all of the characters and explaining all of the little asides. They tell it as though it were a poem they must learn by rote. The story is the stuff of legends, and all the girls know it well. The rhythm of Australian accents, up and down, provide a mythical tone – almost like listening to the legendary story-poems of Clancy of the Overflow or The Man From Snowy River. Tension builds, the soundscape reaches a crescendo as the girls story reaches the summit along with its characters.
Director Matthew Lutton’s vision is clear. Keep the action to a minimum. This is not a play based on recreating the events, as such, it’s about the powerful nature of storytelling and creating legend. The girls move slowly towards the audience in the opening scene. After that, they depict interrogations, school life, and the haunting of the Englishman, Michael as if they were truly happening. Yet, the whole play is rendered as though it was a distant memory in the past.
The all female cast is phenomenal. Each player takes on multiple roles and narrates the play. Harriet Gordon-Anderson is perfect for the gruff Aussie lilt given to the cart driver and also young Albert, Arielle Gray brings humour and pathos to the misunderstood and physically awkward Sara, Amber McMahaon has a dream-like tone as she attempts to make tangible the mists that surround Michael’s identity and purpose, Elizabeth Nabben will send chills down your spine with her accurate and cutting Headmistress voice, and Nikki Shiels displays amazing facial expressions as her Irma borders on hysteria and horror.
This production of Picnic at Hanging Rock is not quite the classic you remembered – it’s better. Questioning identity, society, propriety, life and death, and the universe itself, the rock will draw you in. You will leave this Gothic delight feeling slightly uneasy, asking – did it really happen, or was it all just a dream?
When: 1st – 17th April 2016
Where: Heath Ledger Theatre, STCWA, PERTH
Tickets: $80 Standard; $64.23 Concession; $33.13 Students; $191.67 Family (2 Adult, 2 Student)
Info: 90 minute duration; Lockout after 12 minutes; Pre-show talk 7th April; Close Captioned 13th April; Post-show talk 14th April; Program available online as free download; Special Hamper deal available at bar – pre-order a picnic hamper to enjoy before the show!
Black Swan website – http://www.bsstc.com.au/season-2016/picnic-at-hanging-rock/
About Laura Money
Is an avid theatre goer, reader, art gallery guide and museum enthusiast. She enjoys all aspects of theatre, from the deep and meaningful to the whimsical and kitsch. As lover of all things in the world of humanities, she is very proud of the vibrant art scene in Perth. It truly is an exciting place to be!
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