Written by Hillary Bell
Directed by Jordan Best
Echo Theatre Company production
The Q Queanbeyan to 27 February
Reviewed by Len Power 18 February 2021
Written by Australian playwright Hillary Bell, Wolf Lullaby premiered at the Griffin Theatre Company in Sydney in 1996.
In a bleak, remote town, a small child is murdered. Suspicion falls on 9-year-old Lizzie. Convinced her daughter is guilty, Lizzie’s young mother must make the torturous choice between ignoring her intuition and presenting Lizzie to the police. The impact of the crime engulfs everyone involved, making us question why it happened and how it is handled after the event.
Jordan Best’s strong production plays out on a set designed by Chris Zuber that evokes the bleakness of a remote country town. Matthew Webster has given the show an ominous and threatening sound design that adds considerably to the atmosphere of dread and the shadowy lighting has been effectively designed by Jacob Aquilina.
The strength of this production is in the direction and performances by the cast of four. As Lizzie, the nine year old accused of murder, Rachel Pengilly gives an extraordinary performance. Clearly much older than the character she is playing, she convinces us that she IS that troubled young girl.
As Lizzie’s mother, Natasha Vickery gives a heart-felt performance of a woman who finds life difficult enough without the horrific situation she now finds herself in. As her partner, Joel Horwood gives a strong performance of a man conflicted about love and commitment. Their scenes together are very real.
Craig Alexander as the investigating town policeman deftly shows all facets of his character, at times frustrated and threatening but then displaying an unexpected tenderness towards the girl.
Playwright, Hillary Bell, gives us characters we can empathize with and the dialogue between the despairing parents is especially well written. You do wonder, though, why the policeman is all alone in his investigation. Surely there would have to be psychiatrists and lawyers involved in a situation involving a child under suspicion of killing another child.
Nevertheless, the director, Jordan Best, and her company have given us an effective and involving drama that raises many issues of concern that leave us with many uncomfortable thoughts.
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