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Review - Letters to Lindy: leaves audience divided

By Lilian Harrington

Letters to Lindy

By Alana Valentine

Directed by Elizabeth Morris

Villanova Players

Ron Hurley Theatre

28 Tallwood St. Seven Hills

Performance dates: 20 Aug. to 4 Sept.

Evg. 7 30pm Aug 20, 27, Sep 2, 3,

Mat.2pm Aug 21, 27, 28, Sept 3, 4

Bookings: Try booking or phone Lorraine on 0423920 832

Alana Valentine is "a critically successful Australian playwright." She is a graduate from the University of Sydney. Her work features topical concerns that have affected the lives of many women and families in Australia and Letters to Lindy is no exception. Directed by Elizabeth Morris,

Villanova Players has given this production a thoughtful presentation. The text is based on the letters written to Lindy Chamberlain while she was held in a Darwin prison for the alleged murder of her baby daughter, Azaria, who disappeared near Ayres Rock when the family were camping in tents there in 1980.

Azaria’s case divided the nation and continued to cause controversy for some time. It changed the lives of the Chamberlain family. Lindy faced trial, and was subsequently convicted and incarcerated in prison for over 5 years, before being exonerated once new evidence was discovered. Lindy suffered bad press, botched investigations and missed evidence, along with police cover ups.

More than 20,000 letters were written to Lindy Chamberlain; these letters are now held in the National Library of Australia. Some were hateful, some well -intentioned and some were encouraging and kind. Lindy’s autobiography Through My Eyes spelt out her thoughts and recollections of the event; plus both a film was made starring Meryl Streep, and later a TV mini -series, to highlight this controversial case.

Writer, Alana Valentine has reflected on Lindy’s case in a practical and positive way, so it leads an Australian audience to reflect on it once more and to wonder how a dingo could have taken baby Azaria from her tent.

The production has been simply staged by Elizabeth Morris in a “reader’s style” theatre format. It was performed as a dramatic documentary. It would have been more inviting to see more action, because some characters were very staid when reading selections from text and didn’t use as much vocal variation.

Unlike Lindy (Jan Binstead), most of the actors took on multiple roles. Michelle Malawkin, was a stand -out support, because she played very confident and convincing roles especially as: Marilyn Nolan, Barker, Legal, Paula, Inmate Housewife1, Cameron and Librarian. Her very clear characterisations and onstage movement meant that her scenes were quite captivating. Jan Binstead as Lindy, performed confidently, as the rather complex real life mum, suffering through her ordeal, but remaining practical, stoic, true to her beliefs, confused, yet warm and funny. Appropriately costumed, she was very convincing in her manner, hair, dress, attitudes and feelings, as she responded to the letters and various interactions with others.

The production designers kept cast costumes modern and casual, with some changes for different character roles; while some characters always referred to their texts, those who didn’t were more convincing. Some special effects and overheads were used of the court and prison scenes, along with an image we were left with of Lindy and Azaria, and a haunting song “Lullaby to Azaria” with music by Anne Monsour and lyrics by Gloria Kimber, sung by Tainika Kane–Potaka, and recorded by Linus Monsour. There was a good audience response, despite a few first night technical hiccups .e.g. papers being collected by crew during a scene and some missed cues..

This is a thought provoking production, it may not be everyone’s taste, but it will certainly cause you to reflect on the Azaria Chamberlain Case and whether a dingo could have taken her. The letters show Australia is divided!


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