The schoolgirls of Appleyard College set off in their buggy on an excursion to remember.
There’s something most unusual about Hanging Rock, the dramatic natural wonder at Mount Diogenes, 70km from Melbourne. The local indigenous clans know it, the recent immigrants realise it and it’s something respected and feared by all those drawn there.
So before a group of schoolgirls from Appleyard College set off for a Valentine’s Day picnic at the rock, their headmistress Mrs Hester Appleyard warns them to be careful. “Do not let yourself get into trouble,” are her parting words as she waves the girls off in their buggy.
Those words will haunt her: by the end of the day on the opening episode of new Aussie drama series Picnic at Hanging
Rock, three of the girls have vanished, and the ensuing scandal that erupts is enough to ruin everything the headmistress has worked for to date.
Miranda Reid (Lily Sullivan), Irma Leopold (Samara Weaving) and Marion Quade (Madeleine Madden) are last seen walking into the trails across the rock, with classmate Edith (Ruby Rees) lagging behind. Hours later, only a distressed Edith returns from the trek, and she’s way too traumatised to speak about what happened to her friends.
As the investigation into that fateful afternoon at Hanging Rock opens, it becomes apparent that almost everyone connected to the girls has a multitude of secrets they’ll do anything to keep hidden.
Top of that list is Mrs Appleyard, who is not all that she seems. Her strict façade is just a cover for a sordid past lived in the seamiest back alleyways in London. She thought a new life in colonial Australia would be her chance to start again, but her seedy past is about to catch up with her.
It then turns out the last person to see the girls alive was aristocratic Englishman Michael Fitzhubert (Harrison Gilbertson). He only recently arrived in the colony, trailing a hint of scandal in his wake. When it’s revealed that he had a special fascination for Miranda from the moment he laid eyes on her, he becomes a key suspect.
Yet it’s when he returns to the rock in order to clear his name that he makes a truly shocking discovery which spins the case of the missing girls into rather more sinister territory.
harrison picnic At HAnging rock screens on sunday, May 6, on Foxtel’s showcase. Madeleine