Sitting in the auditorium of the Roslyn Packer Theatre waiting for Wonnangatta to begin there’s already an ominous feeling in the air. The stark, minimalist set  – a crescent-shaped platform hanging in a black void – emits a sense of foreboding, which is heightened by a haunting soundscape of noises from the bush.

On top of that, the audience (numbering less than a quarter of the full capacity) is widely spaced so that the venue feels vast. The reduced capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions may be battering Sydney Theatre Company’s box office but it somehow suits the spooky nature of Angus Cerini’s new play, which is set in the remote Australian bush.

Hugo Weaving and Wayne Blair on stageWayne Blair and Hugo Weaving in Wonnangatta. Photograph © Prudence Upton

Sydney Theatre Company’s Artistic Director Kip Williams commissioned Cerini to write Wonnangatta after the success of his play The Bleeding Tree, which opened at Griffin Theatre Company in 2015 and then had a sold out STC season in 2017. A “murder ballad” about a mother and her two daughters who have killed their abusive...