Australian classic continues to haunt

Australian classic continues to haunt

Arielle Gray and Harriet Gordon-Anderson. Photograph — Robert Frith.
Arielle Gray and Harriet Gordon-Anderson in Picnic at Hanging Rock. Photograph — Robert Frith.

Quick dramatic acts, subtle lighting and an eerie score bring this classic Australian story, Picnic at Hanging Rock, brilliantly to life on the stage.

Written by Joan Lindsay in 1967 and adapted by Tom Wright, Picnic at Hanging Rock has transcended generations for its mystery not only for what actually happened but for whether it was real.

The new production captures the horror of how three schoolgirls and their teacher vanished mysteriously and without a trace while on a picnic on a beautiful St Valentine’s Day in 1900.

Despite a limited set, the strength of the acting and the apt descriptions leave the audience fearful and disturbed, just as the book did.

Without even a rock on the stage, it is the power in the words that leave you in no doubt of the landscape and the torturous states of mind following the disastrous school outing.

Though set in Victorian landscapes the haunting story was a work of fiction.

Adding to the unresolved mystery was a Peter Weir movie released in 1975 and a final chapter, held back by publishers and released to much criticism three years after Lindsay’s death in 1987.

Elizabeth Nabben stands out for her ferocious portrayal of the Madam Appleyard, the headmistress of Appleyard College from where the four missing persons were from.

She is well supported by Harriet Gordon-Anderson, Arielle Gray, Amber McMahon and Nikki Sheils, who play multiple roles both male and female.

It is impressive that five actors dressed as schoolgirls with limited props can carry off the story with such vividness.

Picnic at Hanging Rock has been a vanishing act tale that has played on the minds of Australians since the 1960s and this joint Black Swan State Theatre Company and Malthouse Theatre production will carry on the tradition of the haunting tale.

Directed by Matthew Lutton it will play at the Heath Ledger Theatre until April 17.

For more information visit and for bookings visit or call 1300 795 012.