Venue: Seymour Centre (Chippendale NSW), Sep 2 – 10, 2016
Playwright: Alana Valentine
Director: Darren Yap
Cast: Jeanette Cronin, Glenn Hazeldine, Phillip Hinton, Jane Phegan
Image by Lisa Tomasetti
There was always something impenetrable about Lindy Chamberlain. Without performing appropriately the role of a distraught mother losing her child, many Australians found her coolness disarming. Alana Valentine’s Letters To Lindy too, does not reveal enough of the protagonist’s inner world. A substantial portion of the show is absorbed in recounting events that are already familiar, and although it does provide glimpses into Chamberlain’s deeper thoughts, the play’s structure although earnest, does not quite deliver a poignancy that lives up to its central, harrowing incident. The mother retains a sense of detachment from her public, and we once again struggle to connect.
Jeanette Cronin is star of the show, impressively dynamic in her approach, with surprising interpretations that prevent Chamberlain’s story from turning cliché. Director Darren Yap pitches the performance at a level suitable to the vast auditorium, encouraging actors to bring a vigour to the stage that keeps us attentive. Of the supporting cast, Glenn Hazeldine is particularly charming in a wide ranging suite of personalities, colourfully portraying each character with a delightful, and thoughtful, sensitivity.
We have no right to demand that Lindy Chamberlain acts out a part to fit a narrative that pleases us. In fact, she is to be commended for going against the grain of stereotype, especially in this new era of pervasive and obsessive media scrutiny, to insist on presenting a face of authenticity. As a theatrical work however, Letters To Lindy needs to fulfil our need for something more engaging, and more moving, in its drama.
The cruelty that societies are so ready to dispense on individuals, especially those in the public eye, have to be kept in check, yet we keep creating opportunities for those injustices to be amplified. It seems our need to witch hunt does not cease, even when we already know better.