Theatre Review: The Hanging – Sydney Theatre Company, Wharf Theatre (performances until 10th September)

There’s an overwhelming urge amongst Australian societies to divulge themselves in to the case of missing people – particularly children. Stories that dominate the media also capture us. The case of Daniel Morcombe is a case in point, where the pubic followed it religiously for more than a decade until there was some sort of closure. But that’s not all, we could go back to the Azaria Chamberlain phenomenon, the huge and ongoing Madeleine McCann case, and the recent one that hits home closely, Kiesha Abrahams.

In these instances, before we’re given the complete verdict, we begin to draw conclusions. Sydney Theatre Company’s latest effort The Hanging playing at the Wharf Theatre opens with 3 children disappearing, but only one of them returning.

Boarder-school Iris played by Ashleigh Cummings has come back to the western suburbs of Melbourne, far from where she should be, and her two friends are left behind. She’s been caught tangled with boys, drugs and literary influences – leading her peers to a point of no return.

Luke Carrol plays Detective Sergeant Flint extraordinarily well, specialising in child production as he keeps Iris captive in an interview room, pressing questions in order to paint a picture. Iris is given the freedom of a support person, in which she draws Ms Corrossi (Genevieve Lemon), her beloved English teacher.

Ashleigh Cummings, Luke Carroll and Genevieve Lemon - Photo by Lisa Tomasetti
Ashleigh Cummings, Luke Carroll and Genevieve Lemon – Photo by Lisa Tomasetti

Angela Betzien has written the work to allow room for some comedic wordplay between the Flint and Corrossi, but in circumstances like this we’re not looking for some relief, we’re looking for an end. She includes references to Socrates and Plato, which proves for some powerplay between the two – which makes for some exciting theatre.

Iris is another beast in itself – holding back from revealing the information we’re yearning for. All three actors are superb in their own merit, though I feel this play lacks some originality. The trope of perpetual loops, full circles and ‘The Game’ as Corossi so simply describes the experiences are reminiscent of Matt Cameron’s 2002 work Ruby Moon and the themes that he brought up so many years ago.

Luke Carroll, Ashleigh Cummings and Genevieve Lemon - Photo by Lisa Tomasetti
Luke Carroll, Ashleigh Cummings and Genevieve Lemon – Photo by Lisa Tomasetti

Sarah Goodes has come right off the back of her great run of Disgraced – also at Sydney Theatre Company, but this time it is a little lacklustre. It feels as though it’s too basic, the script is colourless which doesn’t give her the opportunity to flare the talent she showed so professionally only recently.

Nicholas Rayment and David Bergman as Lighting and Video Designer respectively successfully manage to paint Melbournian landscapes on a canvas against Elizabeth Gadsby’s stone-esque wall which doubles as a mezzanine for Iris’ soliloquies, but it doesn’t draw away from the insipidness of the script.

It’s an interesting take on an all-too familiar story where children go missing. It’s been done before, but this time not any better than the last. Kudos to the actors, but it feels as though they were let down by the production itself.

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The Hanging is playing at Sydney Theatre Company’s Wharf Theatre until 10th September. More information can be found here.

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