Picnic At Hanging Rock

Picnic At Hanging Rock
By Laura Annawyn Shamus. Adapted from the novella by Joan Lindsay. Villanova Players. Director: Jacqueline Kerr. Ron Hurley Theatre, Seven Hills. 24 August – 8 September 2019

Joan Lindsay’s story of three late-Victorian school girls and their teacher who vanish on an outing to Hanging Rock on Valentine’s Day 1900 has had a renaissance of late with a TV series and a couple of stage adaptations. Mixing mysticism with realism the story has fascinated ever since Lindsay wrote it in 1967 and Peter Weir filmed it in 1973. Despite the story being purely fiction, both Lindsay and Weir encouraged the public to believe that the disappearances actually happened.

Director Jacqueline Kerr layers the Villanova production with elements of the ‘gothic’ - dark eye-shadow make-up in particular. A Kookaburra’s laugh and a bird shriek pierce the soundtrack, whilst the sound of a Digeridoo is omnipresent throughout. It’s austere, which is in complete contrast to the action, which is busy, moving a cast of 24 to and from a multitude of locations. A complete non-representational set would have helped and given the production more pace.

Like the recent Brisbane Arts production of the same play, this one could have done with clearer enunciation and projection from the younger members of the cast.

Caitlyn Leo had poise as the French teacher Diane De Poitiers, Emily McCormick’s Miranda had a degree of spunk, whilst Isabelle Stone’s Edith cried wilfully at the drop of a hat. Nicholas Sayers was pompous as the visiting Englishman Michael, Steven Eggington brought humour to the cringe-worthy ‘ocker’ dialogue of the stable-hand Albert, whilst Villanova stalwart Desley Nicholls was a malevolent presence as the headmistress Mrs Appleyard.

More attention to the social mores of the period would have imbued the production with style.

Peter Pinne           

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