By Thana Dharmarajah
It was a renowned felony — the crime of the century. The year was 1932 and the world was swept up in the kidnapping of 20-month-old Charles Lindbergh Jr., son of the famous American aviator Charles Sr.
This is the subject of the Oakham House Theatre Society’s presentation of Blair Francey’s The Crime of the Century, the third original production written by a member of the society.
Francey’s inspirations for his first full-length play came from a TV special on the Lindbergh kidnapping. Although the play has gone through many revisions, Francey says it remains a work in progress.
“There is just so much to the original story that we can always add more, make things more specific and richer,” says director Victor Correia.
Francey’s script emphasizes the complex nature of the crime. Although the whodunit was solved and the suspect executed, he makes the audience question the guilt and innocence of the various characters — from the father Charles Lindbergh to Betty Gow, the nursemaid.
Francey tried a different technique by writing the play from the reporters’ perspective instead of focusing on the main characters. He takes the minor characters who are commonly in the background and brings them out to centre stage.
“The reporters get the story an which way they possibly can, from bribing cops to calling the Lindberghs themselves, because this is the biggest story of all time,” says Thom Chapman, who plays Eddie, a fictional young reporter who is the main character of the play.
The director brings the play to life by using black and white costumes and sets to accompany the newspaper theme and recreate the period of the 1930s. Correia also decided to set the performance on a figure-eight stage with the audience in the centre and the cast performing all around them.
“I wanted the audience to feel the same emotions that the Lindberghs were feeling. This way we can make it appear as if we are closing in on the audience, the same way the Lindberghs must have felt having all of those reporters on top of them,” says Correia.