Offering a darkly comic view at the worst of humanity, Natesha Somasundaram’s new work, Girl Friend, is inspired by the 1997 murder of university student Joe Cinque in Canberra.
Everyone does a bad thing now and then. Madhavi Rao did one of the worst things of all. The real life accomplice to Joe Cinque’s murder, Madhavi managed to slip through several legal loopholes and come out completely unscathed.
Where she is (and who she is now) is anyone’s guess.
“Like a lot of people, I’m obsessed with true crime. The banality of it, the dramatics of it, the too-close-to-home-ness of it,” says Somasundaram.
“This case struck me so deeply because these women murderers grew up in wildly identical circumstances to myself. Questions began to bubble at the back of my mind: how far away am I from becoming these women, really? What does it actually take for someone to throw their moral compass completely out the window? Could I set this entire thing in a supermarket and make it a comedy?”
An intensely covered news story at the time, the bizarre circumstances surrounding the murder have inspired many artists in the form of books, theatrical plays and film. All of these works have been authored by Caucasian writers, often inexplicably erasing or sidelining both murderer Anu Singh and Madhavi’s cultural background (Indian-Australian), and its potential relationship to their behaviour.
“Whilst I am deeply unsettled by domestic violence, I am also deeply unsettled by the strangeness of cultural erasure in dissecting crime,” Somasundaram says. “The public, creative and commercial response to the crime, more-so than the crime itself, certainly speaks worlds about the internal state of a community.”
Vaishnavi Suryaprakash and Nikita Waldron feature. Claudia Barrie directs.