Letters To Lindy is an important piece of theatre. It follows the story of Lindy Chamberlain-Ceighton, the woman who uttered those famous words “a dingo’s got my baby”, through the thousands of letters and emails she has received since that day – about 20,000, and counting.
This production follows the story from Lindy’s perspective, right from her lounge-room, and we are given a rare insight into the 35-year ordeal endured by this grieving mother – the flesh-and-blood human in the centre of a media storm, lashed with rumours and betrayed by a severely flawed legal system.
Lindy herself (played by Jeanette Cronin) is portrayed as a joyful person, always trying to find the bright side of things, always trying her best to cope with the horrific nature of what is happening to her. Cronin’s portrayal is fantastic, and left me wishing I could have some chance to meet the real Lindy, that I might catch some of her strength via osmosis. Cronin manages to hit those low notes, in Lindy’s darkest moments, with near-perfect pitch and I found myself horrified that we had done this to an innocent woman.
Three supporting cast members (Glenn Hazeldine, Phillip Hinton and Jane Phegan) play all other characters in the story, from letter writers to coroners to members of the Lindy’s family. Each of them does so with great conviction and honesty.
The show is not perfect in its construction, but its shortcomings are far outweighed by the quality of its execution, the poignancy of its message and the emotional impact of the story. Some scenes and plot devices were slightly theatrical for my taste, but the show is richer for the varied representations of the journey. I also noted that the playwright (Alana Valentine) has given almost equal time to the voices of those who believed that Lindy was guilty (and felt the need to tell her so, rudely and personally). I appreciated this as an audience member, not only because it gave me a more rounded view of the case (I was not yet born when baby Azaria was taken, although I grew up during the subsequent trials), but also because it saved me from feeling as though I was being beaten over the head with a message – I was generally left room to draw my own conclusions.
I say this is an important piece of theatre because it does what I believe theatre should do: it shows us to ourselves, reflects back to us where we went wrong, and what were the consequences of our actions. It makes us consider whether we should have done things differently, and whether perhaps in the future we should rise above.
This is, perhaps coincidentally, particularly apt subject matter in this age of computerised communications. Cyber-bullying is an ever-present concern and one of its hallmarks is that the bully is removed from seeing the real-life consequences of their actions. They don’t see the real human they have targeted, they don’t see how that person suffers, whether that person cries, whether that person just lost a small piece of themself. So it was (and is) with Lindy Chamberlain: as a nation, we failed her. As a nation, we objectified her. As a nation, we did not consider the real human in real pain and with a real life who bore the brunt of our attacks. Had she been less resilient, we may well have lost an inspiring member of our community.
I really, really encourage you to see this show. Take your friends, take your family. Go.
Kitty Hopwood – Theatre Now