Family's dark days play out on stage

00:02, Aug 18 2014
WHY? Kylie's parents Dawn and the late Bevan Smith. Their daughter's murder raised questions still unanswered.

Dawn Smith is reliving the anguish she has been trying to quell since her daughter was stolen from her by a rapist and murderer more than 20 years ago.

She is hoping a play based in part on interviews with her daughter's killer from 20 years ago will shed light on a question that no parent should be asking. Why?

Kylie Smith was 15, with a full life ahead of her, when repeat sex offender Paul Bailey took her at knifepoint, raped and then shot her on November 1, 1991, in the small Otago town of Owaka about 35 kilometres from Balclutha.

Kylie Smith
VICTIM: Teen Kylie Smith was killed in 1991.

This week, Dawn was in the audience at the Balclutha theatre as the dark days following her daughter's death were played out onstage in Portraits.

"I didn't know what to expect and I was very concerned how Bailey would be portrayed," she said. "I though I might have learnt why he killed Kylie. I was hoping for some answers. Why did he do it? Why did he choose her?"

Unfortunately, while she said the cast and producers of the play did a fantastic job, the answers she was looking for remained a painful mystery. "I don't think that came out in the play and I don't think he [Bailey] ever will give me those," she said.


Portraits play
FROM REALITY: Actors Fraser Brown and Jodie Rimmer perform Portraits at Arohata Women’s Prison. Portraits, along with Verbatim, are plays taken from interviews with those affected by crime, including the rape and murder of Owaka teenager Kylie Smith in 1991.

It was not an easy decision to attend the play.

"If Stuart McKenzie [co-writer of Portraits] had not come down from Wellington to go with me and my son to the show, I don't think I would have had the courage to go," Dawn admitted.

"I wondered ‘what if I want to get up and hurt Fraser Brown [actor portraying Bailey and Dawn's husband Bevan] when he is playing Bailey'?

"What will I do if I get really angry?"

The anger was subdued as Dawn waited with bated breath at every word coming from "Bailey's" mouth.

"Something might have come out that was useful."

The cast and writers of Portraits spent time with Dawn and visited the graves of Kylie and her father, who died in 2011, ahead of the play's run in Balclutha, Gore and Invercargill.

Meeting Dawn and visiting the graves proved extra special for actors Jodie Rimmer and Brown.

Dawn said on the day of the play the cast visited Kylie and Bevan's graves in Owaka to get the feel of the place.

"Jodie cried real tears onstage and she and Fraser had mine and Bevan's mannerisms down to a T," she said.

Last night, Dawn was contemplating heading to Gore for a second viewing of the play. "I may have missed something useful with all the nerves and adrenaline I was experiencing the first time."

It would be Kylie's 38th birthday in a few weeks and, as each year passes, Dawn said it did not get easier, but she was glad Portraits was retelling Kylie's story.

"I want people to go and see the play. I don't think it hurts people to know a few more of the intimate details. We are still involved in parole board hearings. It's not over. It's going on and on and on," she said.

People needed to know the reality of what happened to Kylie and about the ripples caused by the man her brutally took her away.

Dawn said Bevan, who died on Christmas day 2011, would have approved of the play but may not have been able to be in the audience.

He had lived a 20-year battle with a broken heart, she said.

Portraits will be performed, along with another play, Verbatim, at the Scottish Hall in Invercargill on Wednesday and Thursday.

Verbatim was written nearly two decades ago, created from interviews conducted by playwright William Brandt and actress Miranda Harcourt, who visited prisons and homes throughout New Zealand collecting stories of crime from those who felt its impact. Portraits was written by Harcourt and her husband, Stuart McKenzie, from the same source interviews as Verbatim.



What: Portraits and Verbatim

When: Wednesday and Thursday at 7pm

Where: Scottish Hall, 112 Esk St, Invercargill

Tickets: $25 adult, $20 concession (member/senior/student) from 

The Southland Times