An old mystery……… an exciting adventure..........
Set in 1862, Down to earth is based on farm life in rural Victoria. Specifically, Werribee Park which was owned by the wealthy Chirnside brothers, Thomas and Andrew.
The Chirnside's came to Australia from Scotland in 1839. Over the years they accumulated enormous wealth as squatters with their sole source of income coming from sheep farming.
Their magnificent mansion was built in 1877 but prior to that, the brothers lived in a number of different places with many trips back to Scotland. Werribee farm was highly successful and farm life, on which this play is based, was busy indeed. At any one time there would be up to 300 farm workers employed. Typical of rural life in Victoria at the time, life was very harsh and challenging. Wages were very low, but even so most workers would feel privileged having the steady employment and community support of a farm such as Werribee.
Many of the stories told and references to lifestyle are true, including;
- the Wedge family drowning,
- the dread of disease (especially for children),
- opportunities for gold discovery,
- typical jobs mentioned around the farm,
- difficulties of heat in summer for food preservation and
- dealing with Aboriginals...
Across Europe there was a legend that tells of Black Anny, or Black Annis, an ancient bloodthirsty goddess. She was an evil hag who frequently committed murder. She was said to choose children as her favoured victims.
Legends often result from a lack of understanding of the causes of sudden death, especially the death of children often due to, as yet, unexplained diseases.
Black Anny was one of those legends. Centuries ago many folk believed this creature to be absolutely real. It was greatly feared and the legend spread to other countries. It is hard to imagine what it would have been like for those travelling at night.
The utter darkness would have been terrifying and set imaginations running wild.
About the Play – a note from the author – Alaine Beek
Following the success of ‘What Was That?’, the production ‘Down to Earth’ opened on the 24th April 2009.
Keeping with the engaging mixture of history, mystery and comedy, this play takes us further back in time to the more rustic life of the farm worker. In contrast to the grandeur of Werribee Park mansion, 'Down to Earth' gives the audience an opportunity to immerse themselves into the daily life and eerie darkness of a 19th century farm.
Down to Earth – the setting
The audience arrives as new workers at Werribee Farm. Head boundary rider, Joe Higgs who is followed closely behind by Esther McLeod, head cook at the Men’s Hut, will be your guides. Throughout the night, you will be treated as new farm workers which leads to much interaction and fun.
But, the fear of Black Anny is forever present and as guests there’s much you will see and hear that can be strange and even frightening. You may question what is real and what is not. Listen and watch very carefully. Keep very close together and be forever vigilant, for anything can happen on this mysterious little farm.