Role for theatre in novel

SARAH DUNN
Last updated 13:00 22/01/2013
Bev Robitai
RETURNING TO THE SCENE: Murder mystery author Bev Robitai outside the Theatre Royal, where she set her first published novel.

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Nelson's Theatre Royal is the inspiration behind a murder mystery being sold at cost to help other heritage theatres return to their former glory.

A former Nelson resident of 15 years, author Bev Robitai planned the release of her first crime novel Murder in the Second Row to coincide with the theatre's 2010 re-opening.

"It started with the aim of helping out before the rebuild was done, but it took quite a long time to write," she said.

This book and last year's self-published sequel Body on the Stage are now being offered at cost price to theatres around New Zealand to help them fundraise. The Theatre Royal in Christchurch has accepted the offer, and a Lyttelton company is also interested.

Robitai said Murder in the Second Row was based around characters she knew from her time volunteering at Nelson's Theatre Royal.

It is set in the fictitious "Regent Theatre", which is meant to resemble the pre-restoration Theatre Royal.

Robitai started out as a member of the chorus in 1983's Sinbad the Sailor pantomime, but before long her role encompassed props, wardrobe, front of house and secretarial roles.

Most of the events described really did happen, she said.

"If it fitted in with the story, I used it."

Robitai and husband Eddie moved to Auckland in 1998, but she continues to include the cast of characters in her writing.

She has heard no grumbles from any of the real-life stage crew yet, attributing this to the idealised world of the novel.

She is still in touch with many of the theatre's past supporters, phoning them up to mine their memories for content.

"Either they haven't recognised themselves or they're quite content without any complaints," said Robitai.

She is now working on her third novel, which will feature a murder set among a production of Little Shop of Horrors.

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- The Nelson Mail

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