Thursday, January 19, 2017

Picnic at Hanging Rock. 

On currently at the Lyceum. Borrowed, I think, from Melbourne's Malthouse Theatre and Black Swan State Theatre. I'm guessing it was put together at one of these theatres and travelled as the Australian accents were impeccable.

It was the show of the season that I was least looking forward to. Reworked novel. Victorian teenagers. I'm still a bit scarred by The Weir I think. 

But gloriously I was wrong wrong wrong. It was excellent.

I won't tell you the story as I don't want to spoil it for you. But the premise is a pack of schoolgirls go for an unauthorised hike at a school outing to Hanging Rock. And are never seen again. 

The story is used as a premise for some musings on the extent to which man can ever control nature. And probably, as Mark Fisher observes, as an exploration of how effective British attempts to "civilise" the local populations in their Empire were ever going to be.

(Fresh back from losing my heart again to Melbourne, I also got a lot of joy from hearing the street names.)

The play is a cracker. The words are great. The last line is outstanding. (I tried to memorise it and failed. I've looked it up and failed to find it. If you know it, please share!) The story is told carefully and not overtold. But the production is the star of this show. 

Matthew Lutton, the director, isn't quite a child prodigy but seems to be doing incredibly well for himself on the other side of the world. And if this production is mostly his work, I can see why.

The staging was ace. The set was spartan so the actors got pretty much most of your attention, with little incursions of foliage to break things up now and again.The choreography - as it was choreographed more than directed but I mean that as a compliment - was smooth and sinister and controlled and evocative and marvellous. The cast are five, all girls, and they play the girls and the teachers and the gardener and the witnesses to the disappearance. In as much as there were witnesses. They're brilliant, versatile, commanding. (And their enunciation was excellent.)

The costumes are wonderful. These girls could have marched straight out of Heriot's, excepting the pink trim. But as the story evolves, we see occasional contemporary costumes which curiously reinforce what a curious tale this is.

And the lights. The blackest of black punctuates the scenes allowing for perfectly orchestrated scene changes that are so snappy, I'm a little bit in awe. The music casts a discombobulating chill over proceedings. And the illuminated captions over the stage. Needless to say, I want.

It's a cracking play, beautifully, elegantly, realised. 

This is the type of theatre the Lyceum should be sharing. More please.


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