Women Murder Women: Case Studies in Theatre and Film
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis looks at two cases of women who murdered women - the Papin sisters (Le Mans, 1933) and Parker-Hulme (Christchurch, 1954) - and considers their diverse representations in theatre and film, paying particular attention to Jean Genet’s play The Maids (1947), Peter Jackson’s film Heavenly Creatures (1994) and Peter Falkenberg’s film Remake (2007), in which I played a part. What happens when two women (sisters, girl friends) commit violent acts together - not against a man, or a child, but against another woman, a mother or (as in the case of the Papin sisters) against women symbolically standing in place of the mother? How are these two cases - the Papin sisters and Parker-Hulme - presented in historical documents, reinterpreted in political, psychoanalytic and feminist theories, and represented in theatre and film? How might these works of theatre and film, in particular, be seen to explain - or exploit - these cases for an audience? How is the relationship between prurience - the peeping at women doing something bad - and the use of these cases to produce social commentary and/or art, better understood by looking at these objects of fascination ourselves? My thesis explores how these cases continue to interest and inspire artists and intellectuals, as well as the general public - both because they can be seen to violate fundamental social taboos against mother-murder and incest, and because of the challenge they pose for representation in theatre or film.