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The Wheeler Centre

Picnic at Hanging Rock  /  Australian stories

‘She felt herself choking and tore at her frilled lace collar. “Miranda!”’

Fainting spells, frilly collars, mystery, hysteria and a truly awesome backdrop – Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock might be 50 years old this year, but it remains a point of Australian cultural obsession. The book – written by Lindsay in just four weeks back in 1967 – has inspired a film, a radio play, stage adaptations, fashion spreads, music videos and a new miniseries coming out this year.

Why do we keep coming back to Lindsay’s eerie tale of a Valentine’s Day school picnic gone wrong? Perhaps it’s the ambiguity around fact and fiction; perhaps it’s the striking combinations of imagery or maybe it’s the maddening obscurity of the ending.

At this celebration of Joan Lindsay’s iconic novel (and its enduring myth), Helen Withycombe hosts a conversation between Lindsay's biographer Janelle McCulloch, theatremaker Tom Wright (who adapted the play for Malthouse Theatre in 2016) and Helen Morse, who played the French teacher in Peter Weir's film version of the story.

They discuss the true story (and the mysticism) that inspired Lindsay, the book's refractions of nature and time, the troubling history of Hanging Rock itself and why Lindsay’s tale continues to haunt and provoke Australian storytellers today.

Left to right: Helen Withycombe, Janelle McCulloch, Tom Wright and Helen Morse — Photo: Jon Tjhia

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