Picnic At Hanging Rock - The Musical
February 2007 saw the world premiere of a new musical written by Robert Johns (adapter) and Brian Spence (composer). The premier took place in the Chichester's Minerva Theatre in West Sussex.
Anyone wanting to performance this show themselves are recommended to go to the official website, www.picnicathangingrock.co.uk
The musical is based on the 1967 book by Joan Lindsay about a picnic that takes place at a local beauty spot in Australia (The Hanging Rocks) on St. Valentine's Day 1900 by a group of schoolgirls and their teachers from the Appleyard College for Girls. Although the story is a work of fiction, many believe the story to be a true one. The book was turned into a film by director Peter Weir in 1975.
The musical is told through the eyes of The Watchers, a group of youths native to the area who believe that the Rocks are sacred. At the picnic four of the schoolgirls go missing along with one of the teachers. At first everyone assumes that they have just go lost on the rocks, but as time passes this assumption turns to fear for the lives of the missing.
The musical is divided into two parts. The play flows from one scene to another, from the rocks to the school to the local town seamlessly. Act one opens with Dreamtime as the Shaman and Watchers climb over the rocks with music that has an Australian Aboriginal quality about it - this sets the scene for the myth of the rocks.
We are then introduced to the residences of Appleyard College, run by Mrs Appleyard an acerbic woman who rules the college with an iron fist, as they set out for the rocks in a carriage pulled by horses. As it is St. Valentines Day the girls toy with romantic notions before some of their party disappear.
The song "Those Foolish Girls" is sung four times, by various sections of the cast, indicating the passage of time and the involvement of other locals living in the nearby town. Having spoken to Brian he is not sure if this section works, however, I think it did as it allowed the whole cast to sing as a company.
The track that follows "God It Isn't Fair" is a terrific track which was handled well by the performer, Helen Taylor as Mrs Appleyard, with difficult lyrics and tight punctuation. As Act one finishes Michael finds one of the missing girls, Irma, and the questions everyone wants to know is what happened and where are the others?
Upon the resumption, both Michael and Irma are recovering and the search continues. However, Irma can not remember anything about the time she was missing. As time passes Irma starts to fall in love with Michael but his thoughts stay with the missing girls, especially Miranda.
Gradually, the remaining girls are removed by their parents from the school, fearing their offspring's safety. Mrs Appleyard turns to drink as her life and the school is unraveling around her. As this happens Dianne, one of the teachers, leaves to get married. Mrs Appleyard takes it out on Sara, an orphan, who we learn is the sister of the gardener, Albert, although neither knows this as they were separated at a young age. Both long to find the other as they separately sing "Sweet Flower of Mine".
Later a body of a girl is found in the school grounds and Mrs Appleyard goes missing on the Hanging Rocks and all the while the Watchers watch.
For a list of the cast and crew at the Chichester shows click on the following link. See Cast and Crew.
Watch and See For Yourself
Both videos are the same, the only difference is the quality of the images and the time it takes to download to your PC. To view, left-click. To download and save right-click and select Save Target As. The same goes for the audio sample.
As a live show this musical is fantastic, the imagery, the acting, the dance and the music all leave a positive inpression that lasts. However, I think the music lasts the longest. If you missed seeing the show, bad luck. However, if you ever get a chance to see it I strong urge you to do so. You will not regret it.
Before you ask, the music is not available anywhere. I wish it was. One day, one day.
One final word, why not go to the official Picnic at Hanging Rock website at www.picnicathangingrock.co.uk
Page Last Updated: 4th March 2010
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