Ghosts from the past

The strangely be­guil­ing mys­tery Pic­nic at Hang­ing Rock is com­ing to the small screen. Lily Sul­li­van, who stars in the re­boot, tells DANIELLE MCGRANE about the re­turn of the pop­u­lar story and whether the mys­tery will be solved.

Sunday Territorian - - TV -

First it was a book, then it was a film and four decades later it’s about to be­come a TV show. Joan Lind­say’s clas­sic Pic

nic at Hang­ing Rock has been made into a much-pub­li­cised six-part se­ries star­ring Game

of Thrones’ Natalie Dormer. It means this in­trigu­ing tale is set to open it­self up to a new gen­er­a­tion.

“Every­one is al­ways ask- ing, ‘Why are we re­touch­ing some­thing that was a book and then the film, do we re­ally need to go back there?’, but I found with peo­ple just a bit younger than me, a lot of them have no idea about it,” Lily Sul­li­van said.

Sul­li­van plays Mi­randa Reid in the re­boot, one of the school­girls who goes miss­ing at Hang­ing Rock while on a day out with school mis­tress- es on Valen­tine’s Day in 1900.

What fol­lows the ex­cur­sion is the mys­te­ri­ous dis­ap­pear­ance of Mi­randa and some of her school friends, along with one school mis­tress.

Sul­li­van says she was not un­fa­mil­iar with the tale.

“I’d read the book, but the film was some­thing my mum had a real love for so I watched it quite young,” she said.

But there are some darker el­e­ments to the story which were lost on the young ac­tress. It wasn’t un­til she re­cently re-watched di­rec­tor Peter Weir’s 1975 film, and re-read the book, that the strange, psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller re­ally opened up to her.

It also in­formed this new re-telling of the story.

“I think that’s the beauty of this story; you can read

Sul­li­van: “Do not be un­der any il­lu­sions from the cos­tumes, the corsets – this is a mod­ern thriller mys­tery. Pre­pare your­self for com­pli­cated, dark women.”

it through­out stages of your life and you can in­ter­pret it in dif­fer­ent ways, or in­ter­pret dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters’ sto­ries, and I feel as if that’s what we did on set,” she said.

“It had such an in­tense col­lab­o­ra­tive drive and every­one was giv­ing their best ef­fort and their in­ter­pre­ta­tion, and I hope that that’s what the au­di­ences will ex­pe­ri­ence, the am­bigu­ous na­ture of the psy­cho­log­i­cal mag­i­cal tale of Pic­nic at Hang­ing Rock.”

The book, and film, fa­mously ended on a bit of a cliffhanger. The mys­tery re­mained un­solved (aside from Joan Lind­say’s fi­nal stand­alone chap­ter, pub­lished after her death). Whether or not the TV se­ries will solve that mys­tery re­mains to be seen, but Sul­li­van says there was more in­for­ma­tion in the book that may not have been pre­vi­ously ex­plored.

“We flesh out the char­ac­ters, we give them pasts and com­plexes. They’re all tied to­gether by hope and the de­sire for free­dom. So we give them all a back­story re­ally, which is ex­cit­ing,” she said.

“In the book, Joan Lind­say leaves these lit­tle threads and if you pull on them the char­ac­ters’ world and things that they say within the book, you could run so deep with it in re­gards to sex­ual sup­pres­sion, fe­male sup­pres­sion, iden­tity, grow­ing up in Aus­tralia, which didn’t have an iden­tity at that time. How con­fus­ing it was to be a hu­man of that civil­i­sa­tion.”

There are strong and rel­e­vant mes­sages that run through­out the se­ries that Sul­li­van hopes will serve as a re­minder of what so­ci­ety has achieved, and also as a cau­tion­ary tale.

“I hope that young girls, when they watch it, see them­selves in these young women and see them­selves in a time when they didn’t have a voice and they were stuck in the mid­dle of nowhere without in­ter­net,” she said.

“Do not be un­der any il­lu­sions from the cos­tumes, the corsets – this is a mod­ern thriller mys­tery. Pre­pare your­self for com­pli­cated, dark women. We al­ways say it’s 1900 with a rock ‘n’ roll edge.” n Pic­nic at Hang­ing Rock Tonight, 8pm on Show­case (Fox­tel)

Re­turn to the Rock: From left, Sa­mara Weav­ing, Madeleine Mad­den, Natalie Dormer and Lily Sul­li­van.

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