Philip Ridley
Shoreditch Town Hall
Shoreditch Town Hall

John Macmillan Credit: Matt Humphrey
John Macmillan Credit: Matt Humphrey
John Macmillan Credit: Matt Humphrey

If you don’t mind standing in total isolation from other audience members in a pitch black room with only the sound of a killer moving nearby looking for someone to kill, then you will find Philip Ridley’s nightmarish play Killer a gripping memorable experience.

It was too much for the woman standing beside me. She collapsed. I heard her fall and then the urgent voice of another woman saying, "I’ve got her." In a matter of seconds, two stewards had the lights on and were with her. It also allowed me to see that there was more than just a few of us in the room.

Killer consists of three loosely linked monologues spoken by John Macmillan in the voice of two characters. Each takes place in a different room of the darkened basement of Shoreditch Town Hall.

The first and third take place in complete darkness, the second in partial darkness.

Headphones worn by all audience members emphasise a disconnect from anyone other than the actor who uses binaural technology to make his voice seem to move around us.

The first voice is that of a gravelly East Ender telling us we are all potential killers. He describes being twelve years old and from a deprived background when he was drawn into the gang of Ronnie Sieg Sieg Saxon. Various initiation exercises eventually led him to commit a cruel act of violence that he found incredibly upsetting.

In the second room, we hear the polished, slightly camp, strait-laced voice of a man who acts as carer for the elderly widow Mrs Tandy.

His story moves from household chores to a trip to the cemetery. It is meant to be a day when Mrs Tandy lays flowers on the grave of her husband but they quickly find themselves on the run from strange zombie-like people with hammers, determined to destroy everything in their path.

The audience is split into a number of rooms for the third story in which the character in the second story imagines he is forced to go on the run from a dangerous killer against whom he has given evidence in court. It is also an account of the miraculous ostrich Vesper.

The script is intense, direct and unsettling. Occasionally it is amusing but given the context it would be understandable if you failed to smile.

Although there is no distinct theme, in this period when politically and socially events keep taking us by surprise, this play will strike a chord with some people.

It works mainly by creating a world of paranoia and for the audience a touch of fear. You might enjoy the play as long as you have somewhere safe to go afterwards.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna

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