Tom Wright’s adaptation of Joan Lindsay’s 1967 novel offers a rich and hallucinatory telling of the story of three schoolgirls and a teacher who vanish on a Valentine’s Day excursion.
Wright employs a cast of five to tell the story and, in the wake of the disappearance on that blazing hot afternoon, explore its metaphoric, political and subtextural crevices – the sexual and the colonial, most resonantly. They echo darkly as we observe the lives and futures of the remaining staff and pupils of Appleyard College fragment and dissolve.
Quoting directly from the novel at times, the text is as dense and thorny as the landscape it describes and demanding of its players. But under Sahn Millington’s direction, actors Megan Bennetts, Alice Birbara, Alana Birtles, Audrey Blyde and Sarah Jane Kelly are individually skilful and collectively cohesive enough to find a way through. My only reservation is that some of the characterisations veer into the region of caricature.
Mood and pace are capably sustained over the play’s 90 minutes, aided by Patrick Howard’s sound design and Victor Kalka’s evocative set of thin eucalypt trunks, lit with strong colour by Louise Mason.
In short, a very engaging production of this most ambiguous and unsettling of whodunits.