The makers of a play about top defence lawyer Greg King say they wouldn't have gone ahead without approval from his family.

Silo Theatre this week launches its 2018 programme, which includes the world premiere of a play called The Defendant described as a thoughtful and complex imagining of the lawyer's last days.

King was just 43 when he took his own life in 2012, four months after he successfully defended Ewen Macdonald who was accused of murdering brother-in-law Scott Guy at his Feilding home.

Coroner Garry Evans' report into King's death concluded he experienced a "massive breakdown" after the trial. The report included excerpts from a suicide note in which King described himself as "exhausted, unwell, disillusioned, depressed and haunted".


The Defendant is written by Dan Musgrove, an established playwright and actor best known for starring roles as "Mr Asia" Marty Johnstone in Underbelly: Land of the Long Green Cloud and petty criminal Lefty Munroe in Westside.

Musgrove is also a law student and says his studies, coupled with conversations he's had about the characters he's portrayed, made him think more about the pressures of being a defence lawyer.

"It's easy to live in a bubble and think some people are not deserving of the right to a fair trial but think about it, it's the cornerstone of our justice system - to have that safeguard, that right to a fair trial - and someone has to do that job," he says.

"Defence lawyers are often vilified in the media - through fictionalised TV and film accounts as well as, sometimes, the news - and I don't think their stories have been particularly well dealt with.

He decided to write about King, rather than a fictional lawyer, because he was a well-known and liked figure involved in court cases familiar to many New Zealanders.

Musgrove wants the play to be respectful and spark discussions about our judicial system.

He and Silo Theatre artistic director Sophie Roberts have gained approval from King's family but say they won't be involved in any publicity about the play.

In the story, the Macdonald trial has concluded and King is in a Rotorua motel room preparing for his next case when he receives a visit from a young motel worker.

Promotional material then states: "Troubling and profound, it presents a portrait of a fierce intellect who defended some of the most notorious criminals - and who believed in our shared humanity, even at its darkest hours."

Roberts says it fits well with the theatre company's 2018 programme with a total of five plays. She says each one tells a story about characters striving to create a new world order.

"I don't programme with any theme in mind but when I put everything together, a theme seems to emerge," she says.

"These are all works about change, transformation, evolution and moving forward rather than feeling as if you're stuck and there's nothing that can be done about it.

"Our jobs, as artists, might be to identify problems and draw attention to them but, sometimes, it's as much about asking what a possible way forward might be."

Roberts sums up Silo's 2018 by saying it's theatre that celebrates the destruction of systems and ideas that no longer serve us.

Silo's 2018 programme is:

Body Double by Eleanor Bishop and Julia Croft, blends erotic literature, science and the language of Hollywood films to question the way we represent romance and sex in popular culture as well as the way women see themselves in the digital age.
Body Double - Co Production with Auckland Arts Festival, Q Theatre, March 20 - 29.
The Defendant by Dan Musgrove, Q Theatre, June 14 - July 7.
HIR by US writer Taylor Mac, is an "exquisitely intelligent comedy" about Isaac who returns from Afghanistan to discover his suburban family in a war of their own. Directed by Roberts, it's described as a dysfunctional family drama for the 21st century.
HIR, Herald Theatre, August 2 - 25.
Mr Burns by Anne Washburn, sees survivors huddle around a fire, pondering a world without electricity and the things they will never see again. To console themselves, they piece together an episode of The Simpsons, clinging to one of the few memories they all share.
Mr Burns, Q Theatre, September 13 - 29.
Here Lies Love, the concept album by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim is a "glittering and garish sonic explosion" which tells a political history through disco-pop. Roberts and musical director Robin Kelly aim for a staggering line-up of the fiercest and most fabulous divas to bring the album to life.
Here Lies Love, Q Theatre, November 22 - December 8.