Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Christie In Love

Howard Brenton
Rough Haired Pointer
Kings Head Theatre

Jake Curran and Murray Taylor Credit: Chris Tribble
Jake Curran and Murray Taylor Credit: Chris Tribble
Murray Taylor Credit: Chris Tribble

Rough Haired Pointer’s production of Howard Brenton’s 1969 play Christie In Love takes us into a nightmare world of sexual violence against women.

It begins deceptively low-key. A policeman (Daniel Buckley) sifts through mounds of screwed-up paper in what represents the garden of Christie. He is young, nervous, and has an unimposing presence.

Perhaps to calm himself or simply to pass the time, he recites limericks, many of which crudely depict women. An inspector (Jake Curran) arrives to advise him not to brood over what he is doing and they share jokes about women.

The discovery of a dead woman leads to a disturbing change in the mood of the play. As the police exit the stage carrying the body, the lighting dims, flickers and we hear a low, unsettling hum that grows in volume. A frightening figure in a mask emerges from the paper, unzips the fly of his trousers and pulling out a long black rubber hose which he waves around as he speaks violently about women.

As the background sound ends and the lights return to normal, we find that beneath the mask is a bald, slightly plump, ineffectual looking man in glasses. This is Reginald Christie who, as a special constable, helped the police to convict and then hang Timothy Evans for a crime Christie had committed.

Again, the lights and sound change as police help him recreate one of his murders before he is in turn killed by the police.

This is an extraordinarily good production. The director Mary Franklin’s careful pacing of the action and the framing of the actors creates a fine, unsettling drama. The disturbing mood is also shaped by Jordan Mallory-Skinner’s impressive soundscape and Seth Rook Williams's lighting.

Murray Taylor gives a chilling portrayal of Christie as at the same time both weak and extremely dangerous. Jake Curran is a cold, ruthless Inspector. Daniel Buckley as the hapless constable gives a slightly lighter contrast to the other characters.

The world of this play is one of corrupt police who share many of the attitudes to women as the killers they hunt down. Just as the monsters seem to rise from the rubbish packed into Christopher Hone’s imaginative metal and wood framed set, so also do the headline-grabbing serial killers emerge from a society that has yet to respect the rights of women.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna