Heavenly Creatures


6.1.1 Background to "Daughters of Heaven"

**The following are quotes from Michelanne Forster, the author of "Daughters of Heaven," taken from her correspondence to me. [jp]

"I interviewed a great number of people who remembered the case and knew the families and/or key people involved. I never tried to find Pauline or Juliet. "People I talked to were very cautious about telling what they knew in 1989 when I first began my research. "I was told by the Justice Department and the police that Pauline's diaries no longer existed... A number of the key diary entries were printed in the Press(ChCh) and Christchurch Star-Sun at the time of the trial and I used these as source material. "My primary picture of the murder came from hundreds of 'little stories'--snippets really--told to me by people who were around at the time. School teachers, lawyers, friends, prison employees, innocent and not so innocent bystanders; they all had their say."

**The following is taken from the Introduction to "Daughters of Heaven" and from notes provided me by Ms Forster. [jp]

When I first heard the story of the Parker Hulme murder I was both repelled and fascinated. I had recently given birth to my son, and a mother's brutal death by the hand of her own child seemed then, and now, the most grotesque of crimes. But gradually, as I immersed myself in the project, I became dulled, much the same way the slaughterman does as he slits the throat of a beast. The 'moider' became just another scene on a page. I collected a notebook of fragmented memories and it was these small stories which launched me towards the larger story I was after. I was hunting the psychological heart of the murder. "What is the play about?" I find it nearly impossible to answer. Look one way it's the story of a provincial New Zealand city, restrained and nice with implicit British attitudes about class and gender, being turned upside-down by a murder, suddenly being confronted with evil. Look another way it's about love--the sweeping away of reason and morality in a crazy tide of two-ness. It was the passionate delivery of their souls to one another that concerned me--not what the girls did in bed. Their fierce devotion and need for one another evoked my sympathy, not my disapproval. "Daughters of Heaven" is not a piece of investigative journalism, an essay on repressive sex stereotype roles in the 1950s or a documentary to be marked ten out of ten for factual correctness. It is a play written for the stage and must be discussed in those terms. My knowledge is only that of a well- informed lay reader. What "really happened" is not the playwright's territory--the imagined secrets of the human heart are.

Back to Contents

Laurence S Moss