The Hanging | Sydney Theatre CompanyLeft – Ashleigh Cummings, Genevieve Lemon and Luke Carroll. Cover – Ashleigh Cummings and Genevieve Lemon. Photos – Lisa Tomasetti

The Hanging is no picnic although Joan Lindsay's Oz Goth classic, Picnic at Hanging Rock, casts a giant shadow over Angela Betzien's play about the disappearance of a couple of schoolgirls and their surviving accomplice.

Beginning with an AV presentation of projected images of young girls in the bush with a poetic voice-over, the play plonks us into a modernist functional suburban living space where Detective Sergeant Flint is to conduct an interview with Iris, the only one of the three girls reported missing from their posh single sex boarding school to have been found.

The space is a city property – one of many apparently – owned by Iris' father and considered by the cop, a specialist in child protection cases, to be a better locale than a police station to conduct the interview.

Iris has nominated her English teacher, Ms Corrossi to act as her support person during the interview.

Pointedly a police procedural, The Hanging's main issue seems to be about the abrogation of responsibility by parents.

Neither parent is present even though the daughter has been missing for days. Support has to be given by a member of staff of the school they have been “sentenced” to.

As Ms. Corrossi alludes, the college is a prison, the pupils more like prisoners, harbouring fantasies of escape by the inmates.

Ms. Corrossi holds extracurricular book club readings with a small coterie – the same group that have gone missing. The book they had been discussing was Picnic at Hanging Rock, a story which the girls have taken to emulate.

There's certainly some mystery here, but no suspense or thrills, as the banter and repartee courses through Plato, Socrates and a quote by French philosopher, Denis Diderot, in reference to females – you all die at fifteen.

Nice work from Luke Carroll who gives us a real character rather than some stereotypical cop from Central Casting.

Genevieve Lemon is terrific as the teacher, spiky in her awareness that being a spinster puts her under suspicion, defensive of her over and above classroom care of her students.

Ashleigh Cummings summons the flighty, flirty, yet fragile attitude of the sulky fourteen year old, though physically seems much, much older.

Influenced by Mary Pipher's Reviving Ophelia, The Hanging is a contemporary contribution to the morbid motif of the lost child.


Sydney Theatre Company presents
The Hanging
by Angela Betzien

Director Sarah Goodes

Venue: Wharf 1 Theatre, The Wharf, Pier 4/5 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay
Dates: 28 July – 10 September 2016
Tickets: from $64
Bookings: 02 9250 1777 | www.sydneytheatre.com.au


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