Natalie Dormer stars in the TV series Picnic at Hanging Rock.
Natalie Dormer stars in the TV series Picnic at Hanging Rock. Supplied

Classic Aussie mystery gets a modern makeover

AN ICONIC Australian mystery has been given new life in the age of the #metoo movement.

Picnic At Hanging Rock, the 1967 novel which was adapted for the big screen in 1975 by director Peter Weir, is set to be discovered by a new generation as a new six-part drama series for Foxtel.

Game of Thrones star Natalie Dormer and Orange is the New Black's Yael Stone helm a fresh-faced cast of rising Aussie talent including Samara Weaving, Lily Sullivan, Madeleine Madden and Ruby Rees.

The series explores the mysterious disappearance of several schoolgirls during a picnic on Valentine's Day in 1900.

Ruby Rees, Samara Weaving, Madeleine Madden and Lily Sullivan in a scene from Picnic at Hanging Rock.
Ruby Rees, Samara Weaving, Madeleine Madden and Lily Sullivan in a scene from Picnic at Hanging Rock. Supplied

"I hadn't really visited the book since I was young, but I was more familiar with the film. Mum showed it to me and it had those intense, dark undertones," Sullivan says.

"It was really fun to jump into the provocative nature of the book and give these characters voices. We're really jumping down the rabbit hole with these young women."

While author Joan Lindsay later released an excised final chapter of the novel which resolved the mystery, don't expect things to be so clear-cut in the TV series.

"We definitely do play to the more spiritual and surreal sides of this story," Sullivan says.

"There's a disappearance, a mystery and a ripple effect... but what is real and what is not real is unknown.

"Through the episodes we follow each character's interpretation... who's to say your imagination isn't as real as what's right in front of you?"

Lily Sullivan plays Miranda in the TV series adaptation of Picnic At Hanging Rock.
Lily Sullivan plays Miranda in the TV series adaptation of Picnic At Hanging Rock. Sarah Enticknap

The drama has already received critical acclaim at both the Berlin Film Festival and, just last week, the Tribeca Film Festival.

"It's so cool when you shoot something in Melbourne, where my home is, and then to have the experience of international audiences experiencing it and loving it," Sullivan says. "It just feels like a story that is due to be told and reimagined."

Sullivan hopes young viewers will relate to her character Miranda, who is missing the freedoms of her family's cattle station in Far North Queensland when she is shipped off to Mrs Appleyard's (Dormer) boarding school.

Samara Weaving, Madeleine Madden, Natalie Dormer and Lily Sullivan in a scene from Picnic at Hanging Rock.
Samara Weaving, Madeleine Madden, Natalie Dormer and Lily Sullivan in a scene from Picnic at Hanging Rock. Supplied

"You are entering at the burning peak of frustration for Miranda," she says.

"In the opening episode you can really feel that these girls have been pushed together. Through that desire to not be poked and prodded and groomed into something you're not comes this incredible bond.

"I hope young girls do connect with it and see themselves in these young women."

Picnic at Hanging Rock premieres on Sunday, May 6 at 8.30pm on Showcase. Foxtel On Demand subscribers can stream all six episodes after Sunday's premiere.


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