These days actress Vanessa Sabourin finds herself drained at the end of a day. It’s not easy finding the emotional centre of a living murderess, especially one that bludgeoned her mother to death.
The St. Albert Children’s Theatre alumna is in rehearsal for one of the season’s most provocative plays that fabricates the aftermath of New Zealand’s most sensational murder trial, a tragic event that revealed the thin wedge between madness and sanity, fantasy and reality.
“The play starts off at a high intensity and never stops. Your energy circle is super heightened and you’re very aware of everything that’s going on,” says Sabourin of her character Pauline who swings from deep love to profound rage.
Along with Kristi Hansen, Sabourin founded The Maggie Tree, an Edmonton company that explores human stories through the female perspective. She and Hansen star in playwright Trevor Schmidt’s world premiere of Folie Ă Deux running March 11 to 21 at Catalyst Theatre.
The Pauline Parker, 16, and Juliet Hulme, 15, murder and court case happened in Christchurch in 1954. It was notorious because Pauline and her best friend Juliet killed Parker’s mother Honora with a brick in a sock. The teenage girls were sickly, and when the loners first met they bonded over their ailments. Within a few months they were hopelessly entwined in a delusional fantasy world.
The kindred spirits created fictional characters preoccupied with evil. “They would go into violent sexual fantasies. Their characters were all about power, lust and desire. In their world, they had absolute power and there were no repercussions for their actions. In their world, they could explore their sexuality without being bad.”
The parents worried about a lesbian connection and separated the girls. From Pauline’s diaries, the jury learned the duo hatched a plan to kill Honora. “The separation was more than they could bear and the worlds of reality and fantasy collided.”
The girls were found guilty and sentenced to a prison term. After serving five years they were released on condition they never contact each other again. Juliet went on to become Anne Perry, a famous crime writer and Pauline opened a riding academy in England.
Schmidt’s tale picks up as Juliet one day visits Pauline’s abode – a situation that rekindles memories and sparks revenge. Told in a series of flashbacks, the girls play six characters.
“There’s never been any proof they ever broke the condition of their release. But if they met 40 years after the crime, what would they say? For Pauline, it’s a lot about deciding and accepting who you are.”
Folie Ă Deux<br />The Maggie Tree<br />March 11 to 21 <br />Catalyst Theatre<br />8529 Gateway Blvd.<br />Tickets: $20/adults, $15/students, seniors. Call 780-420-1757 or visit www.tixonthesquare.ca