Picnic at Hanging Rock natalie Dormer Amazon Prime
Natalie Dormer stars in "Picnic at Hanging Rock." Photo by Amazon

Ever since the death of her “Game of Thrones” character Margaery Tyrell in the Season 6 finale, English actress Natalie Dormer has kept a low profile.

She starred in the 2016 horror “The Forest” and performed voiceover work for video games, but none of her forthcoming roles were set to debut until later this year. The first of these, the mysterious widow Mrs. Hester Appleyard in the drama “Picnic at Hanging Rock,” premieres this week.

Based on the acclaimed 1967 historical novel by Australian author Joan Lindsay, the gothic mystery details the Valentine’s Day disappearance of three students and a teacher from a girls’ boarding school. It happens during a picnic at Hanging Rock, a popular destination in the southeastern state of Victoria. The book was previously made into a celebrated 1975 film by Peter Weir, and playwright Tom Wright crafted a stage version in 2016. The Dormer-led miniseries promises to be an intriguing new look at Lindsay’s celebrated work.

That’s not to say that executive producers Jo Porter, Anthony Ellis and Penny Win, or writers Beatrix Christian and Alice Addison have significantly changed Lindsay’s original story. If anything, “Picnic at Hanging Rock” remains highly focused on the book’s original mystery: the disappearance of the four young women. And much like Lindsay’s novel and Weir’s film, the new series makes the story more about the mystery itself than whether or not anyone is able to solve it.

 

With the benefit of six nearly hour-long episodes (as opposed to a single film or play), the series’ length allows the showrunners to tell a much longer, more engrossing story. As a result, while Dormer’s headmistress leads all six entries, the sheer amount of storytelling space lets the three disappeared students (Lily Sullivan’s Miranda Reid, Samara Weaving’s Irma Leopold and Madeleine Madden’s Marion Quade) and teacher (Anna McGahan’s Miss Greta McCraw) shine throughout flashbacks, dramatised retellings of witness accounts and dreamier interludes.

As a result, mystery fans will love the new miniseries. Those who enjoy the gothic style of storytelling will especially appreciate “Picnic at Hanging Rock,” which helps the show combine its central story with a frightening array of seemingly supernatural phenomena. So if this sounds like your kind of puzzler, then check out all six episodes when they begin streaming this Friday on Amazon Prime.

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