Ballarat National Theatre

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Production Dates

26th September to 3rd October 


Just prior to his death Annabelle’s Father changed his Will disinheriting her younger sister, Miriam, who looked after him for many years. After a long-haul flight Annabelle arrives to find the house locked up and the neglected garden deserted. Nurse Alice Moody emerges from the summer house. After delivering some disquieting news she leaves promising to return the next day once Annabelle and Miriam have had a chance to discuss her 'offer'. But that is just the start of it. Why did Annabelle walk out, why was the well boarded over and what happened in the derelict tennis court?

The cast for this production includes Lesley Hale, Linda Ogier and Peppa Sindar. The bizarre happenings are directed by Julian Oldfield.



Annabelle Chester Lesley Hale
Alice Moody Linda Ogier
Miriam Chester Peppa Sindar


Director Julian Oldfield
Designed By Frank Lilley
Stage Manager Liam Mudge
Crew Bianca Austin, Lincoln Hunt
Lighting Frank Hanrahan with Robert Selway-Hoskin & Tony Decini
Sound Recording Michael Zala


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Review - Snake in the Grass

Reviewer: Paul Rose

Ballarat National Theatre: A Snake in the Grass. Directed by Julian Oldfield.

On one level Alan Ayckbourn’s A Snake in the Grass is an old fashioned thriller. On another it is a psychological ghost story. At an even deeper level it is a blazing study of family love and jealousy, fuelled by a long denied sense of entitlement, ignited by an evil, dominant and now thankfully dead father.

Domineering Annabel Chester [Lesley Hale], a failure in business and in marriage, returns home after her father’s death as the sole beneficiary of a recently changed will, having inherited the dilapidated family home. She is accosted by her father’s former nurse the blunt Alice Moody [Linda Ogier] claiming to posses a letter from father accusing younger daughter Miriam [Peppa Sindar] of trying to kill him.

Annabel confronts spinster Miriam – well, yes, in a way - she concedes, admitting that on occasions she did double or perhaps even triple his medication and did, after first removing most of the staircase light bulbs, give him a gentle push from the top! Nurse Moody demands £100,000 to stay silent.

Miriam, who has grown comfortable in her role as a murderess, drugs her. She and Annabel despatch her lifeless body down a conveniently situated well. But why can’t Annabel set foot on the tennis court?

At the end of the first half of this play I was fairly certain where Ayckbourn was taking his audience. The thriller conventions dominate until interval. But the second half, where Miriam and Annabel let their old sibling rivalries bubble to the surface takes the audience in many new and totally unexpected directions.

Lesley Hale’s Annabel is suitably haughty, domineering and superior. It is easy to understand why she has failed in life and love. Peppa Sindar’s Miriam flicks between twelve year old childishness and a scary amorality with convincing ease. The consequences of their father’s bullying, physical and sexual abuse plays out through these these excellent performances. Linda Ogier [Alice] plays the smiling blackmailer with wonderful joy.

The ensemble is tight and convincing, a tribute to the efforts of director Julian Oldfield who has brought out the best in his quality cast. The interplay of an excellent set (Frank Lilley), mood-capturing lighting (Frank Hanrahan) and the requisite ghostly sounds (Michael Zala) are all combined to great effect by Stage Manager Liam Mudge.

Ayckbourn’s barbed wit, unexpected plot twists, strong characterisation and tight ensemble acting make this Snake not one to be missed.