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Friday 12 April 2024

The Mystery Of Missing Schoolgirls & A Teacher Played Out In Chilling Adaptation Of Picnic At Hanging Rock @ Brighton's New Venture Theatre

Five modern schoolgirls struggle to solve a mystery from 1900 - of the disappearance of four girls and their teacher on a school trip in the Australian outback. 
Credit: Strat Mastoris

Hysteria and terror reverberate throughout the community; as the potential for history to repeat itself becomes nightmarishly real.

This chilling adaptation of  Picnic at Hanging Rock, at Brighton's New Venture Theatre, is based on Tom Wright of Joan Lindsay's novel - made famous by the 1970's Peter Weir film - it evokes the true horror of the story, and effectively captures the conflict existing between the Colonial aspirations to 'tame the indigenous people', and the savage nature of the Australian outback.

The cast begin by recounting the story, rather like a Greek chorus; but gradually becoming the characters. 

They switch between roles, almost like a ritualistic role play. The play's text captures the repressed sexuality of the girls and sets it against the unforgiving powers lurking in the wilderness.

Director Diane Robinson says: 

"I love the way that this adaptation of 'Picnic' picks up a story that the audience think they already know - a story full of mystery and suspense.  

"This version speaks to our need for meaning, our impulse to simplify a reality that is basically incomprehensible. It taps into our fear of engaging with the unknown. 

"As a piece of theatre, it is really important that we conjure up the horror of the piece; partly through the menacing use of language, and the employment of an eclectic range of theatrical styles that play disturbingly with the shifting of time.

"Another thing that drew me to this adaptation is that Nature is the central character in this play – for the Rock, and indeed Nature itself, is always there as a Primeval presence throughout.  

"Mrs Appleyard represents repression, and the Colonial need for creating order in the Australian outback, and she speaks of the need to 'tame,' 'cultivate,' and 'civilize,' the land, through 'restraint,' 'vigilance' and 'cleanliness.'  

"But she is no match for Nature and for the landscape, to which she ultimately surrenders."

Picnic at Hanging Rock at New Venture Theatre runs from 17th to 25th May 2024 - CLICK HERE for tickets.

by: Mike Cobley


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