Play's Bain theories survive lawyers

Last updated 05:00 11/08/2010
TOM HUNT/The Dominion Post

A scene from the play The December Brother, featuring the Bain family murders.

Tim Spite plays Robin Bain
CHRIS SKELTON/The Dominion Post
BLOODLESS CUE: Tim Spite plays Robin Bain in the play The December Brother, without furniture, a gun or stage blood.

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The December Brother

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Three lawyers have scrutinised the script of a new play that purports to show the Bain family murders step by step.

The December Brother, which opens on Saturday, presents two scenarios – the first with David Bain murdering his family, and the second with his father, Robin Bain, carrying out the killings, then taking his own life.

Usually outspoken advocates for both sides of the debate about who killed the Bains say they are ambivalent about the play's subject matter.

When Downstage Theatre announced plans for the play in June, creator Tim Spite said it had yet to be decided if The December Brother would depict the murders and that the idea could be dropped if it was considered too "overt". But Spite and his theatre company Seeyd had since decided the play, which also contains two other stories, will depict two theories of how parents Robin and Margaret and their children Stephen, Laniet and Arawa died in 1994.

A Downstage spokesman said the script had been checked by two lawyers on the theatre's board, as well as an external lawyer.

David Bain was found not guilty last year of the murders of his family, after a Privy Council-ordered retrial. The defence argued that Robin Bain killed his family and himself, sparing David.

Spite said he had not been criticised about dramatising the murders or about it being too soon after the second verdict. "I've only had pressure to receive legal advice. No-one has said, `it's too fresh'.

"I've had to reassure people that we're treating the subject sensitively. The thing is, it's all out there."

Spite will play Robin, and Hadleigh Walker will play David.

The stage design included a life size "blueprint" of the Bain home, but would not have any furniture or props, including a gun.

Instead, the actors would mime the action to sound effects. At each step of the murders, a series of "facts" on each scenario would be projected on to a screen behind the action.

"There is no blood," Spite said. "It is quite intense, there's no doubt about that. But I think it's soft enough, in some respects, to go, `OK, I [sitting in the audience] can just follow this without having to dry retch. I can follow this without feeling there's going to be blood or it's going to be gruesome.'

"It keeps it quite clinical. It keeps it fairly sterile in some ways, which I think makes it more palatable."

The re-enactments were mostly based on trial documents, but Spite said the theatre had continued to fine tune depictions based on new information, including the television documentary The Investigator Special: The Case Against Robin Bain, shown last month.

David Bain campaigner Joe Karam told The Dominion Post yesterday that he had no interest in the play. "You go and have your salacious fun with it and good luck with you," he said before hanging up.

Whanganui mayor and broadcaster Michael Laws, who debated with Mr Karam on live radio last week, arguing that Robin Bain was innocent, was not concerned about the play.

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He said it was good if it kept the debate about who the killer was alive.

"I don't take anything in the arts seriously. It's all fiction, isn't it?"

The December Brother runs at Downstage Theatre from Saturday until September 11.

- The Dominion Post

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