Documentary play delves into infamous murder


It's a crime many in Medicine Hat would like the city to turn the page on. But the sensational nature of a 12-year-old being convicted of triple murder along with her 23-year-old boyfriend will likely not let that happen.

And while there continues to be a media spotlight on the crime, two Victoria-based playwrights have put the finishing touches on documentary play about the murders of a Medicine Hat family and those affected by the fallout.

"Castle in the Sky," by sister and brother team Francesca Albright and Jude Allen, made its first public presentation during a staged reading at Victoria's Intrepid Theatre last week with the News in attendance. The play has been picked up by Sage Theatre and will have its premiere at
Calgary's Pumphouse Theatre between June 14 and 16 during the Ignite! Festival spotlighting new works. Dates and times are still to be finalized.

Based on interviews done with friends of the accused and victims as well as former News reporters James Neely and Nicole Riva, the play is presented in a documentary style, using the verbatim words of those interviewed.

Unlike most plays, "Castle in the Sky" takes directly from these interviews, leaving the creative process in the editing of the words of those the playwrights spoke to over the course of interviews in 2006 and 2007.

While a plethora of media reports, Internet chatter and a book have painted a detailed picture of the events in the days leading up to and following April 23, 2006, the play exposes some overlooked details.

For those who have followed the story closely, the play offers a point of view which has yet to be seen and gives fresh insight into the much analyzed crime.

As for the presenting the material as a play rather than a documentary film, Albright said this format allowed the playwrights more access to those involved with the victims and murderers.

"A lot of the stuff in the newspapers and the way things were portrayed - I've never been a Goth kid or persecuted like that - but I thought it was sensationalized," said Albright. "I felt that because everyone was so fearful and it was so shocking a lot of the things focused on and reported on pulled away from the actual events."

She said the purpose of the play is not to explain why these events happened but to examine the effects on those close to the victims and the couple who murdered a father, mother and their eight-year-old son.

"We spoke to so many parents whose lives were turned inside out - people who didn't have any relations with those involved," said Albright.

"A lot of things can't be fixed. But in the words of one of the characters in the play, 'what have we missed here?'"

Co-author Allen said he and his sister
worked hard to present the stories of those individuals in a way which
would add light to the murders.

"We skirted the issue for a long time," said Allen, adding they had left the story on the shelf for awhile as the two young playwrights acquired the skills they felt necessary to develop the story.

He described the murders as a sort of quicksand that sucks people in the more one moves through the testimonials of those involved.

"I use that analogy because of the eight months we spent getting to know these people ... these people became everything to us."

"I would wake up troubled," said Allen of times working on the play, "I haven't been able to have one of those peaceful sleeps in a long time."