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Picnic at Hanging Rock takes the stage

11 Feb 2016

Picnic at Hanging Rock takes the stage Image

By Eva Garnes

On February 26 Malthouse Theatre will host the world-premiere of its stage adaption of the Australian classic Picnic at Hanging Rock.

“We are excited to put on such an iconic work, and it is great that, through this we have the possibility to introduce the story to a new audience,” artistic director Matthew Lutton told Southbank Local News.

Joan Lindsay’s chilling novel about the mysterious disappearance of three schoolgirls and their teacher, and the repercussions the event had on the local community, has become part of the Australian psyche.

“Malthouse wants to build an Australian canon of works, and the way to do this is to take something well-known and re-tell it again and again. What makes Picnic at Hanging Rock such an iconic work, in my opinion, is the fact that it shows us the sensation of being foreigners in our own environment,” Mr Lutton said.

This is the first time the story has been put up on a professional stage, and this has led to some difficult decisions along the way.

“The hardest part in adapting such an iconic story is the audience’s expectations. Picnic at Hanging Rock was also immortalised in Australian culture by Peter Weir’s film, so it is finding the balance between capitalising on people’s expectations while finding our own artistic expression,” Mr Lutton explained.

In the new adaption, the audience will meet five characters trying to solve the puzzle of the disappearances. It also highlights the fear of repetition, as the actors race to solve the riddle. While Lindsay’s novel focuses on many angles of critique and analysis, the Malthouse Theatre’s production focuses on the thriller aspect of the story.

“We decided to focus on how the repercussions of the disappearance affects the school and the local community, as well as playing on the potential horror of history repeating itself,” Mr Lutton said.

Perhaps more interestingly, the play will put the main focus on the words of the actual story and not the set. Therefore, there will be no rock put on-stage, or any other big props. Rather, the performers will take the audience through the story with their words.

Picnic at Hanging Rock will play at Malthouse Theatre from February 26 until March 20.

For tickets and more information visit

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