The December Brother (17th August 2010)

Jono and I are off to see another play tonight! I had won a double pass to see play The December Brother at Downstage Theatre from, a Wellington events website. Jono tells me that I’m very good at winning freebies – hehe, that is quite true. Lucky me! And a plus for Jono too because he gets to come along with me to all the events :) Keep the freebies coming in!

Headed over to Cha, one of our regular dining places on Courtenay Place for dinner at 6pm. I like Cha – the food is consistently good and they are speedy so on nights like tonight where we needed a quick eat, Cha’s a good place to go to. They also have a wide range of teas to choose from their drinks menu, from traditional to bubble teas – we would always try a traditional or herbal tea we’ve not ordered previously, curious to find out what a tea that ‘heals internal organs’ or ‘great for circulation’ taste like, often laughing as we read the translated benefits of the teas because some just didn’t quite make sense in English. We tried Long Jing (aka Dragon Well) tea today, a variety of green tea said to be good for the respiratory system (we just think it sounded interesting, not so much its benefits). Jono had a Yang Chou fried rice (Cantonese-style fried rice with barbecued pork, shrimp, eggs and peas) while I had one of my all-time favourites at Cha, Chicken and Salted Fish with Tofu casserole served sizzling in a small claypot with a side serving of rice. Yum!

Headed over to Downstage Theatre at 6.15pm and thank god I picked up our tickets beforehand! A very busy night at the theatre for tonight was a special show with family and friends of the cast as well as students from various art institutions in the audience, plus a ‘meet the cast’ session after the show where the audience could find out more about the play and the actors. A near full house, we were seated 3rd to last row in the stall seats downstairs – not the best seats in the sense I’ve to peer over the head of the person in front of me just to see the front-most part of the stage which is a little annoying…

I wasn’t sure what to expect from The December Brother – I have heard about it some time ago that it was partly based on the David Bain trial (a controversial murder case where Kiwi man David Bain was convicted for murdering his parents and siblings, sentence to 13 years of life sentence and last year, acquitted in a retrial and is now a free man). Hmm, perhaps too serious for a Tuesday night?

The show started at 6.30pm with a pre-show skit of a tired young man on the wheel, driving half asleep and eventually crashing. Very cleverly done where one actor was just the head of the driver, another as the hands on the wheel, and a third person wearing the red sweater. The head would move about as the man drifts in and out of dreamland, abruptly interrupted by bright lights (from a coming vehicle) or a popped balloon (perhaps stirred from his dream or as he drove past a bump). I had thought it was part of the actual play itself but this was just a skit campaigning driving safety by the local council – an innovative way to bring the message across to the public :)

The December Brother is a Seeyd Theatre Company production, written and directed by Tim Spite and had 3 acts in the 2-hour long play. Act one was an adaptation of Tim’s father, Tony Spite’s real life story, who was adopted at birth and went on a search to find his long lost family. The search was fruitful in finding Tony’s half-sibling (rather peculiar that the half-sister first found out about her half-brother through an astrologer’s reading) and biological mother (played by Brad McCormick – yes, a man playing a female role, just the voice and action, not outlook i.e. in dressing) but way too complicated with the mix of half brothers and sisters, and a god-father who later became his step-father, and the god-mother who was also the mother’s cousin, blah, blah…I was utterly lost with who trees up to who and how everyone was related to each other when Tony (played by Tim himself) reiterated the connections for each time as he discovered new pieces of his jigsaw puzzle (can someone sit down with me and actually draw me a family tree??). It was a light-hearted portrayal of Tony’s findings and along the act, the audience had the opportunity to see photos taken throughout Tony’s life of him and his family (existing and newly discovered) on the projection screen. Oh, did I mention Tony Spite was in the audience too? :)

Act 2 was based on the Crown and Defence versions of the David Bain trial. The stage had thick red tapes to show the layout of the rooms in the Bain house and the actors playing family members asleep in their grids i.e. own rooms. The Crown version had David Bain (played by Hadleigh Walker, whom I’ve seen in the movie, The Predicament, at the recent NZ Film Festival) shooting his 5 family members while the Defence version had Robin Bain (David’s father played by Tim), killing his family members and then himself while David was out doing his morning paper run. Both versions showed a full frame-by-frame account of what could have occurred that morning, David/Robin shooting the family members one by one with a rifle, the violent struggle with brother/son Stephen (Brad had to act as if strangled by his own shirt when he fought Hadleigh and later Tim), the washing of blood-stained clothes in the washing machine (there was a brief moment of full frontal nudity as Tim had to take off all his clothes – I suppose older men i.e. Robin Bain in this instance, do not wear boxers or brief under their track pants…), David/Robin leaving a note on the computer that stated “sorry, you are the only one who deserved to stay”, and David shooting Robin or Robin shooting himself, before a devastated David rang 111 in great distress to report the deaths in the house.

A 15-minute interval followed after Act 2 and Jono and I went to the bar to get some ice-cream as we continued to discuss the David Bain trial. Frankly, it is difficult to pinpoint if it was the son or father who conducted the mass murder (the account of events as portrayed in Act 2 showed clearly that the actual story can sway either way and with all the other Bains dead, that didn’t help David’s claim of his innocence) and one has got to be severely estranged with his own family or momentarily insane to shoot all your blood ties in one go. I feel sorry for David Bain who has to remember such a horrific event for the rest of his living days, whether he was the murderer or not.

Back to our seats and the thick red tapes from before now had jars and jars of yellow-coloured liquid in them. Hmm, I wonder what they are for…The final act was a dramatic tie together of the two contrasting stories from Act 1 and 2 in a fictitious story of a woman learning she was adopted (played by Nikki MacDonnell) and how, in the search for her family discovered the dark secret of her prisoner half-brother (played by Brad), that it was he who killed both his parents. Brad also played the role of the eccentric mother who had a detailed diary of urine samples (so that was what the jars represent – they aren’t really urine samples, really, just coloured water) and ideas that her husband was the devil. Tim got the audience laughing in stiches when he was the gay Defence lawyer and also the aunt in this act. I nearly peed myself in hysterical laughter watching Tim pretend to be an old woman who was so happy to have visitors but had much trouble bending down to take a seat (and it didn’t help that Hadleigh keep accepting the old lady’s offers of tea and biscuits, making the old lady get up again, shuffling to the kitchen and repeat a whole exercise of getting her bum to the chair). Oh, it was just SO funny!

Given it was only the 2nd show of the season (show season from 14th August till 11th September), the cast did an excellent job and though there were minor errors in the lines spoken which the actors very quickly corrected, the performance had a smooth transition and I was most impressed with how the sound and lighting collaboration with the actors’ movements were exactly on time (there were hardly any actual props used – almost all were movements with ‘imaginary’ props). The actors were able to play their multiple roles (most times, the boys had to play female roles) amazingly and remember so many lines! Though thought-provoking, it definitely was not as dark or too serious as I’ve first thought – the show got quite a lot of laughs out of the audience too, and me, of course :) I strongly recommend that you check out the play – it is one not to be missed!

My high school classmate, Meng Li said in her last email that she reckons amongst our friends, I live the most colourful life. Hmm, I must admit, my life is rather colourful, with lots of interesting happenings, events to go to, places to visit, people I meet etc…and I LOVE it! Better still, I’ve got someone I love who enjoys the same lifestyle too :)

Oh, and this is the final week of rehearsals before my parasol performance on Saturday. Hope the audience would enjoy my new routine! I think it’s rather cute ;P


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