In a thrilling new production, New Theatre presents the Sydney premiere of Tom Wright’s acclaimed adaptation of Joan Lindsay’s novel, Picnic at Hanging Rock for a limited season from 17 November 2020.
On a blistering summer’s day in 1900, three private school girls and their teacher vanish while on a day-trip to Hanging Rock in country Victoria. It was supposed to be a Valentine’s Day treat. They were meant to be home for dinner. They are never seen again.
Picnic at Hanging Rock is a story that defies explanation, a story that proves that horror is a warm, sunny day. Joan Lindsay’s historical fiction took the theme of the child lost in the bush that has haunted the Australian psyche for generations and wove it into a compelling supernatural mystery.
In this chilling theatrical adaptation, five young female performers recount the story and the struggle to make sense of what happened, exploring the euphoria and terror which reverberates through a tight-knit rural community faced with a frightening chain of inexplicable events.
Whether you’re a fan of the novel, Peter Weir’s iconic 1975 film, the recent television adaptation, or coming new to the tale, you’ll be left transfixed by a dramatic journey that plunges us to the depths of our most primal fears.
Tom Wright’s adaptation was first seen at Black Swan Theatre in Perth and Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne, where it had a sell-out season, subsequently touring to Edinburgh and then London, Picnic at Hanging Rock returned for a second Melbourne season. New Theatre is excited to be presenting the Sydney public premiere of this evocative gothic thriller.
“It’s great that New Theatre can bring this play to Sydney audiences for the first time,” says New Theatre’s Artistic Director, Louise Fischer, “and to welcome back as director Sahn Millington, who did such a great job here last year with Cat’s Talk Back during the Sydney Fringe Festival.”
“This production is not going to be what people might expect if they know the film and the recent tv adaptation,” says Sahn. “Forget pan pipes and floaty frocks; Tom Wright has drawn deeply from Joan Lindsay’s novel, incorporating much of her highly poetic language, and it’s much closer to the book than to Peter Weir’s film.
“It is a story about those of us left behind; how the mystery of the disappearance resonated with characters months and years after. Like any tragedy, there are those that must live on, inevitability changed by the experience.
“I also see this production coming at a poignant time in our own relationship with the Australian landscape. For me, it’s the contemporary challenge of Australia to reconcile itself to its land, and in this era of climate change and fear of a destabilised environment through bushfire, drought, or flood, the story can take on a new relevance,” says Sahn.
The play is written for a cast of five young female actors, who cover all the roles: from schoolgirls to headmistress, teachers and townsfolk, teenagers to the elderly, women and men.
The cast consists of Alice Birbara (The Lieutenant of Inishmore), Alana Birtles (Once in Royal David’s City), WAAPA graduate Audrey Blyde (Collaborators) and making their New Theatre debuts, Megan Bennetts and NIDA graduate Sarah Jane Kelly.
“It’s an incredibly exciting prospect to cast and then explore this text, which requires great imagination, physical dexterity and range from the actors,” says Sahn. “I’m very influenced by ancient Greek theatre, so I’m really looking forward to creating a ensemble, a chorus, that steps up to tell this haunting, terrifying story.”
Director: Sahn Millington Featuring: Megan Bennetts, Alice Birbara, Alana Birtles, Audrey Blyde, Sarah Jane Kelly Set Designer: Victor Kalka Costume Designer: Leela Landers Lighting Designer: Louise Mason Sound Designer: Patrick Howard Composer: Georgia Condon Assistant Director: Caitlin Andrews Stage Manager: Doug Cairns Operator: Emma Johnston Dialect Coach: Benjamin Purser
Picnic at Hanging Rock
New Theatre, 542 King Street, Newtown
Season: 18 November – 19 December 2020 (preview: 17 November)
Information and Bookings: www.newtheatre.org.au
Image: New Theatre presents Picnic at Hanging Rock – photo by Bob Seary