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Interview: Clowning Around At Hanging Rock

Pointy Finger’s Laurie Luxe on Nitwit At Hanging Rock

Picnic at Hanging Rock is one of those films that for some people still sends a little shiver down the spine. This 1975 film was based on the true life mystery of a group of schoolgirls and a teacher, a mystery that has never been solved.

But we suspect Nitwit at Hanging Rock may not quite be the same horror, much to our relief! For one thing, Pointy Finger, who are bringing their show to VAULT Festival on 11 and 12 March (tickets here), are basing the show on the original book and not the film. And secondly, well, look at that title, it’s clearly not taking itself quite as seriously as the original material!

To find out more, we caught up with the writer, performer and designer, Laurie Luxe, to find out more.

You are a team of Australian clowns from that can we assume this isn’t going to be quite the horror story we remember from the film?

Well, it’s a horror of sorts. This is a team of 3 clowns attempting to tell a very lengthy and tragic mystery, which features an absurd number of characters and segments, all in 45 minutes. 

And coming from Australia, is this mystery one that is well known in the country?

Most definitely. I’m from Victoria and as a child I remember visiting Hanging Rock and being absolutely terrified – particularly that my watch would stop, which my mother always warned me about. This is a famous signature in the film, and I know people who swear it happened to them at Hanging Rock. 

What made you want to take on this story in your own unique way?

I began experimenting with a Picnic at Hanging Rock schoolgirl costume I found by chance. I then researched the novel and lore around the story – the deeper you dive, the stranger it gets! Who wouldn’t want to dive in?

Having to play with something so mysterious and atmospheric is always great fodder for clown. The humour comes quite naturally. 

What is it that makes this story one that still gets talked about even after all this time?

People still believe it.  The author had been to a boarding school near Hanging Rock, and aspects of the book could be based on something – but probably not to parts where people mysteriously disappeared.

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest the story didn’t happen and was a hoax of sorts. The author had staged hoaxes before in her youth, and she was often got quite vague (and even frustrated) whenever asked about the truth around Picnic. No recorded history from the time mentions the event, which is pretty odd for the unexplained disappearance of a group of wealthy schoolgirls. However, the story was written far later, and most people didn’t consider looking into these aspects. I like to think of Picnic at Hanging Rock as an early Blair Witch Project. 

Your cast are from all around the world, what has brought you all together for this show?

It’s mostly an Australian and UK team, though some of our Australians are based in France. We all met at the same clown school!

You’re telling the story through various styles, what can we expect then from the show?

We’ve got a genuine Aussie bush band, big drag numbers, tonnes of queer romance, genuine frights, puppetry and more. It’s the whole shebang. As staged by clowns.

The show is being labelled as a Work In Progress, does that mean this is just the start and we can expect it to be back later in the year?

Most definitely. This is a 45-minute showing and our aims are to further develop this over time in quite a big way – aiming towards a longer, larger-scale production. This first trial should be a lot of fun. I love the energy you get with clown when you have room to play in new ways and find things with an audience. The risk of a flop also lends the perfect tension – and the recover from a flop often gets the most laughs.

And we really couldn’t end without asking you what you think really happened to those who went missing? Do you have any sinister theories about it?

Well, the original novel contained a chapter which explains the mystery entirely, but Joan Lindsay’s editor convinced her to remove it. This was probably wise because the story is far more believable without it – and you’re left with an enduring mystery. The secret ending, is however, excellent. It was published – on her instructions – after her death. It’s incredibly surreal, bizarre, and – frankly – implausible. No adaptation has ever been stupid enough to tackle it – until now.

Thanks to Laurie for finding time to chat to us. You can catch Nitwit at Hanging Rock on 11 and 12 March at VAULT Festival, 5.55pm both days. Tickets and further information here.

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