Letters to Lindy
By Alana Valentine
Directed by Darren Yap
A Merrigong Theatre Company production in association with Canberra Theatre Centre
Riverside National Theatre of Parramatta
Cnr Market and Church Streets, Parramatta
Season: 12 - 14 July. Bookings and info: https://riversideparramatta.com.au/show/letters-to-lindy
The death of little Azaria Chamberlain in 1980 and the subsequent trial, imprisonment and ultimate vindication of Lindy Chamberlain’s innocence gripped the Australian public for more than 10 years. We all seemed to become armchair jurists, and everyone held an opinion as to whether ‘the dingo took the baby’.
In Letters to Lindy Alana Valentine has written an amazing 100-minute summary of this whole, sad affair, all sourced from the 20,000 or more letters that Lindy Chamberlain received from the public. The collection of letters now serves as Lindy’s private memorial to Azaria.
The opening scene is a barrage of some of the worst comments imaginable. It was disgusting and gutter-level offensive vitriol from equally disgusting people that anyone with a presumption of innocence should not be subjected to. The audience was silent and awe-struck until Lindy’s first words gave us cause to breath: “I thought we’d begin with the comic relief first”.
From then on, the play is a succession of direct quotes from letters and vocalised thoughts of Lindy Chamberlain. But be warned, there are some graphic and bloodcurdling images described of Azaria’s death, so it can be heart-wrenching at times.
The Director, Darren Yap has great resources at his fingertips to keep us all attentive: fabulous script, outstanding actors and a wide, open set which enabled lots of movement and action.
Jeanette Cronin has the role of Lindy Chamberlain. She is presented as a very down-to-earth Aussie lady who we couldn’t help but sympathise with. Her Australian drawl accent is perfect, and Jeanette puts great warmth into her character as she demonstrates the range of emotions that Lindy no doubt went through.
The supporting cast of Phillip Hinton, Jane Phegan and Glenn Hazeldine were marvellous as the characters of the various letter writers. All of them could seamlessly adapt to the range of well-wishers and nasty nincompoops that felt compelled to put their thoughts to writing. Glenn Hazeldine even performed as an impressive 12-year-old boy, Regan Chamberlain.
It was said “Only three things have divided this country. Conscription, Whitlam and Lindy Chamberlain”. How true! I wondered if this story has relevance to a modern, young audience who did not live through the Chamberlain era. However, Alana’s play about a modern-day witch-hunt is a terrific show and will find a connection with anyone of any age who can think, has compassion and believes that truth will always prevail.