The new version of Picnic At Hanging Rock starts in the UK on BBC Two next week, and, among other things, it brings Natalie Dormer back onto our screen as the fearsome Mrs Appleyard. If you don’t know, the story is set in the dawn of the 20th century, 70km northwest of Melbourne in the Australian state of Victoria, featured Miranda, who attended a girls’ boarding school in Australia. One Valentine’s Day, the school’s typically strict headmistress, Mrs Appleyard, treated the girls to a picnic field trip to an unusual but scenic volcanic formation called Hanging Rock. Despite rules against it, Miranda and several other girls ventured off. It wasn’t until the end of the day that the school and its staff realised the girls and one of the teachers had disappeared mysteriously.
Here’s an interview with Natalie we managed to get hold of.
The Killing Times: Tell us about Picnic at Hanging Rock…
Natalie Dormer: For years people didn’t know the story behind Picnic at Hanging Rock – whether it was true and whether it had actually happened. A group of girls go for a picnic on St Valentine’s Day 1900 and three girls and one teacher disappear. What happened? Are they murdered? Are they alive? Everyone becomes obsessed and intoxicated by this mystery.
TKT: What made you want to do this series?
ND: I was attracted to this project because of the script. I thought the way this whole community and school had been fleshed out between the lines of what is present in the novel was wonderful. And then of course what you have overarching the entire thing is this delicious mystery: what happened to those girls? What happened on the Hanging Rock? There is a magic that we have very much injected into our reimagining of Picnic at Hanging Rock, one that is hopefully very faithful to the tone of the novel.
TKT: What was it like to film on location in Australia?
ND: This was my first trip to Australia, so to stand in the Macedon region and look out over the Hanging Rock made a big impression on me as well. No acting required. I was overwhelmed by the beauty and scale of Australian landscape. The Australian landscape is a character in itself in Picnic at Hanging Rock. It has an overwhelming power and informs a lot of the characters’ journeys.
TKT: Who is Hester Appleyard?
ND: There is no greater mystery than who is Hester Appleyard. She’s got something to prove. She’s come to Australia, as a lot of people did at the end of the 19th Century, to reinvent herself, to completely give herself a new identity. We slowly reveal the ghosts and the baggage of that past – who she is and this little kingdom that she has created ten thousand miles away from home to hide from her past.
Picnic At Hanging Rock: Wednesday 11th July, 9.05pm, BBC Two
FOR OUR FEATURE ON PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK CLICK HERE