Powerful tragedy in story of child who commits murder

Tessa Bevilacqua plays nine-year-old Lizzie, accused of murder, in Wolf Lullaby. Picture: Kate Sanders-Tye, Verge Studios.

Tessa Bevilacqua plays nine-year-old Lizzie, accused of murder, in Wolf Lullaby. Picture: Kate Sanders-Tye, Verge Studios.

A CHILLING play that looks at children who murder is the Old Mill Theatre’s latest production, asking if there is intrinsic evil in the world.

Written by Australian playwright Hilary Bell, Wolf Lullaby explores the themes of parental guilt and responsibility and whether some people are just born evil.

Set in a bleak, remote Tasmanian town, a small child is murdered – and suspicion falls on nine-year-old Lizzie. Her mother is convinced her daughter is guilty and has to choose between her intuition and presenting Lizzie to the police while her father is in denial that his daughter could have been involved.

Playwright Hilary Bell was the inaugural winner of the Philip Parsons Young Playwrights Award in 1994 and is the daughter of John Bell, founder of the Bell Shakespeare Company.

Wolf Lullaby has the disturbing subject of children as murderers but asks not only why it occurs but how do we deal with it?” director Alida Chaney said.

“As children, how close have we all been to doing something unbidden because we have not yet learnt how to control our anger and frustration? Is it luck or moral instinct that stops us?

“The play also raises questions about getting children to tell the truth and whether they relay events honestly or the way they think we want them to.”

The relationship between Angela (Julia Hern, right) and ex-husband Warren (Dylan James) hits breaking point when their nine-year-old daughter Lizzie (Tessa Bevilacqua, centre) is accused of murder in Wolf Lullaby.

The relationship between Angela (Julia Hern, right) and ex-husband Warren (Dylan James) hits breaking point when their nine-year-old daughter Lizzie (Tessa Bevilacqua, centre) is accused of murder in Wolf Lullaby.

Chaney was inspired to direct Wolf Lullaby after looking for something dark to direct, which was also Australian – and Bell’s script grabbed her attention right away.

“It set my mind racing and left me wondering if a child could really be born evil?” she said. “That thought really struck a nerve but I refuse to believe newborn babies have that genetically stamped on their DNA. But what could cause them to do something so inherently awful?

“The 1993 Jamie Bulger case in England left me reeling at the time – how could those boys deliberately cajole that little boy away from his mother and then brutalise him, causing death?

Director Alida Chaney, left, caught up with Wolf Lullaby author Hilary Bell during a recent visit to Perth. Picture: Kate Sanders-Tye, Verge Studios.

Director Alida Chaney, left, caught up with Wolf Lullaby author Hilary Bell during a recent visit to Perth. Picture: Kate Sanders-Tye, Verge Studios.

“After speaking to Hilary, the author of Wolf Lullalby, she found that when she was researching the play, her colleagues and friends came out with stories of brutality committed by children and teenagers and it seems lucky it doesn’t occur more often.

“I felt there was definitely a story to be told here and I wanted to be the one who brought it to the Old Mill Theatre.”

First performing in the UK at age 11, Chaney has numerous stage credits and has performed with a variety of theatres since arriving in Perth 17 years ago, also teaching musical theatre through her Alida Chaney Performance Company. Her productions of Blood Brothers, Lost in Yonkers and The Rink have received a variety of awards and nominations while she was also named best female supporting actor for her role in Sordid Lives at the annual Plover Awards.

Last year, Chaney scored six awards for The Broken Slipper at Dramafest, the annual state drama festival, including best director and best production and later staged it as a successful double-bill with A Piece of Cake at Fringe World.

Her main challenge with Wolf Lullaby was finding the right cast, after the “cream of the crop” auditioned.

Sergeant Ray Armstrong (Dean McAskil, right) tries to get to the bottom of what happened by asking Lizzie (Tessa Bevilacqua) a few questions in Wolf Lullaby.

Sergeant Ray Armstrong (Dean McAskil, right) tries to get to the bottom of what happened by asking Lizzie (Tessa Bevilacqua) a few questions in Wolf Lullaby.

“What it came down to in the end was the impact the actors had on me personally,” she said. “This is the easiest job I’ve had to date, especially after my last production, The Rocky Monster Show, had more than 50 in the cast.”

Wolf Lullaby plays at 8pm July 31, August 1, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14 and 15 with a 2pm matinee August 9. Tickets are $25, $20 concession – book at http://oldmilltheatre.com.au/tickets or on 0402 249 249. Please note: the show contains adult themes and is not suitable for children under 15.

It is the fourth show in a year of all-Australian plays at the Old Mill Theatre to commemorate the centenary of the Gallipoli landing in 2015.

The heritage-listed Old Mill Theatre is on the corner of Mends Street and Mill Point Road, South Perth (opposite the Windsor Hotel and Australia Post).

To hear director Alida Chaney interview Wolf Lullaby playwright Hilary Bell, click HERE.

 

Weekend Notes

Weekend Notes has run a story on Wolf Lullaby, which can be viewed at http://www.weekendnotes.com/wolf-lullaby-old-mill-theatre/