Torture and retribution

FROM mild-mannered school teacher to sadistic torturer, White Gum Valley local Alan Kennedy has had a colourful life.

“I’ve played in Twelfth Night and more recently I did Twelve Angry Men,” he tells the Herald.

The latter won him a Finley award for best play: “It’s the Oscars for theatre in Perth.”

The retired school teacher has been acting for 20 years with various community theatre groups, and most recently Melville Theatre.

He’s been nominated for another Finley for roles in A Hard God, The Sum of Us and The Woman in Black.

His latest character is someone who may or may not have been a torturer: “I don’t like to think of myself as a villain…there’s a lot of ambiguity, is he or is he not.”

• Bibra Lake’s Kayti Murphy, left, White Gum Valley’s Alan Kennedy and Nicolas Kadmos appear in Death and the Maiden at Melville Theatre.

• Bibra Lake’s Kayti Murphy, left, White Gum Valley’s Alan Kennedy and Nicolas Kadmos appear in Death and the Maiden at Melville Theatre.

Death and the Maiden is a psychological thriller set against the backdrop of an unspecified post-dictatorship country.

Chilean playwright Ariel Dorfman didn’t name his country’s murderous Pinochet regime when he penned his work in 1990 (it was later made into a movie starring Ben Kingsley and Sigourney Weaver). Melville Theatre director Lars Jensen says it continues to resonate as dictatorships crumble, and others form, worldwide.

Death and the Maiden, written before Guantanamo Bay and rendition, explores the intricacies of truth, memory and the morality of retribution, Jensen says.

“During rehearsals, we digressed into lengthy discussion about our research into female political prisoners, the effect on the women, what countries have been responsible and how similar the reports are from different countries.”

The play’s white set symbolises that it could be taking place anywhere in the world:. “It has something to say about the fragility of democracy and the rights of individuals to be safe in their own country,” Kennedy says.

The play tells the tale of Paulina Salas, played by Kayti Murphy, formerly a political prisoner who’d been raped and tortured. Blindfolded, she never saw her captor, but she did hear him. Years later, long after she’s been freed and the regime is gone, she meets Dr Roberto Miranda (Kennedy), who’d kindly driven her husband home after his car broke down. She is convinced Miranda is her torturer, and takes matters into her own hands to prove it.

But her lawyer husband Gerardo (Nicolas Kadmos) is unconvinced and attempts to save Miranda’s life in a tense dialogue that will leave the audience wondering. Is Miranda guilty, or is Salas suffering from paranoia?

Death and the Maiden is on at Melville Theatre, corner Stock Road and Canning Highway May 6–21. Tix $20 on meltheco.org.au/bookings

by JENNY D’ANGER

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