Whispers in the Dark is a harrowing play. Developed by Kassio Hill and actors Caitlin Teeley and Kat Ortiz, it is based on a real murder committed by Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme when they were young girls. This production is particularly dark, however, because it focuses on Pauline and Juliet’s possibly horrific afterlife. Aiming to pose questions about redemption and suffering, we watch the couple pay for their crime – the murder of Pauline’s mother to be together – for what seems to be eternity.
Terrifying music, lighting and chalk drawings are all very effective, but Teeley and Oritz both deserve a great amount of credit for the portrayal of such an obsessive and consuming relationship. They both look so intensely in love with one another, but the way in which they speak and move also makes them appear convincingly disturbed and insane. The moments in which they slip into mania are also brilliant, though equally scary. Occasionally speaking in unison and screaming phrases such as ‘I want to engrave your name in my bones’, it would be so easy for their relationship to appear cringe-worthy or ridiculous, but instead it comes across as real passion, so it is very difficult to fault them.
The plot itself is a little confusing. Pauline and Juliet appear to be slipping out of different time zones, sometimes pretending they cannot remember each other, sometimes arguing, and sometimes lusting after each other. It is never clear what is happening to them or who is inflicting pain on them, though murdering Pauline’s mother has obviously trapped them in so many ways. We are also asked to make a judgement at the end of the play: do they deserve this torment? The play apparently aims to blur lines between good and evil, but I didn’t find this to be a pressing issue. Instead, we are watching two insane characters trying to escape from themselves. As they decide to starve themselves and smash up food with hammers, spraying it all over the stage, the action we see becomes more interesting than any moral debate.
If you want to be scared out of your skin, go and see Whispers in the Dark. It can sometimes be painful to watch, but it’s definitely worth it for the adrenalin rush, whether it sparks an inner ethical debate or not.