Bible John – Pleasance Courtyard

Written by Caitlin McEwan

Directed by Lizzie Manwaring

A recipient of Pleasance’s Charlie Hartill Theatre Reserve 2019, Poor Michelle offer their interpretation on a killer who was never caught, and the culture surrounding him – Bible John.

Gaze around this festival and one prevalent feature will leap at you: serial killers. Musicals, theatre and comedies centring around murder, death and killers litter Edinburgh. It’s by no means a new fascination, we’ve been obsessing over those who would cause grievous harm for centuries, holding them in reverence, canonizing them in history through obsession.

An unsuspecting office finds four women, who know each other only in passing, share one key love, podcasts. Specifically, podcasts surrounding serial killers and unsolved murders. When Bible John becomes the new ‘hot topic’, the girls become enthralled by the case. They turn their passion into an obsession, seeking answers for the lives he would take and for the safety of women across the world.

McEwan’s script blends a gruesome sense of humour, perfectly capturing the natural conversations we have around true crime. For the most part, a delicate balance occurs of characterisation, dramatic tension and even the odd music interlude.

The minimal setting, they make use of every aspect they can, without placing dependence on anything. Video projections are present but never overstay a welcome, sparingly used. No, the delivery from these four performers is what drives Bible John. The sincerity in their ambition to figure out the killer’s identity is entirely believable – one can imagine that sleuthing was already what these four are doing in their spare time. Lizzie Manwaring’s direction offers a comfortable environment, given the subject matter, knowing precisely what to draw from each performer, that is until the ending.

There is, we must mention, a disconnection with Poor Michelle’s production. Towards the finale, a shift in aesthetics occurs, which if taken a different way, may have been a tremendous, movement inspired ending. As it stands, the revisit of the Barrowlands removes much of the tension previously built over the show.

We find a sickening joy in watching the likes of The Staircase, Making a Murderer or listening to Serial and Monster, but for some, they offer more than fascination. They’re warning signs, things to store in the backs of our minds for if this ever happens to us. Bible John has such passion, and so many details it wants to convey that as it works itself into a frenzy, the ending loses what made the production appealing. Otherwise, with a hint of dark humour, Bible John is a look into one of Scotland’s darkest murders, placing gender, violence and fascinations front and centre.

Tickets available from: https://www.pleasance.co.uk/event/bible-john/performances

Poster courtesy of: Katie Edwards

Bull – The Space @ Niddry St.

Written by Mike Bartlett

Directed by Adam Tomkins

Runs at The Space @ Niddry St until August 24th (not 18th), 17.20pm

Bullying doesn’t stop when you hit adulthood – they just change up the tactics. With such a fine line between workplace harassment and genuine levels of manipulation, Mike Bartlett’s Bull examines the insane power of the spoken word, the ferociousness of human fulfilment and elements of elitist office politics.

A cull’, that’s how Bull refers to the difficult decision of ending someone’s employment. Eradication of the weak or even just the unfortunate? Three employees Tony, Isobel & Thomas await their fate. For Tony & Isobel, the choice is clear, Thomas has to go, and they will ensure he does.

Ravenous, though slick in their attack, both Tony and Isobel bring different tactics in a way to psych Thomas out, tripping over his insecurities. Tony, from the outset, is disgustingly smooth – a viper, coiling, biding its time. Jamie Stewart’s control is enviable, loathsome, treacherous and sneaky.

Teetering on the edge of capturing the role perfectly, genuine hate though eludes in moments. They’re a little too funny, too human to spit venom at. Certainly not from lack of trying, it takes Isobel a touch longer for us to begin to antagonise her, as Nayia Anastasiadou’sperformance seems irritatable rather than calculating, it’s only in the closing moments we gain a sense of the terror beneath, drawing blood with smirks.

Bartlett’s text is a staple of not only the Fringe but performing arts. Relentless in its aggressive demonstration of power play, it’s about tearing someone down onstage, yet still making your audience laugh. Its characters are sickening, manipulative, but hilarious. That is, except for Thomas.

Thomas is, in use of gross terminology, the ‘beta’ male. Far from innocent, one must note the misery in his performance, pathetic is a tricky angle – at the risk of having yourself, a performer, seen this way rather than your character. Ignoring this, giving Thomas a distinctly pitiful, but far from heroic portrayal, Jake McGarry finds a balance in which you want to run onto the stage and slap him into fighting back.

Adam Tomkins’ direction pits the three in chess-like manoeuvres. Every movement’s methodical, a counteract from another character’s step. There’s a dance element to it, elegant in their dedication to locking their prey into each trap set.

A fascinating look into the length’s people will go to for self-preservation, Bull is an eye-opening dark comedy which pushes the envelope in its characters likability. A series of humorous, though perhaps too identifiable performances make Arbery productions a must-see for those searching for an intelligent laugh while exploring the vices of human nature.

Tickets available from: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/bull-1

A Crown of Laurels – Paradise in Augustines

Written & Directed by Ryan Hay

Composition & Musical Direction by Lavie Rabinovitz

Design by Danielle Connally

Choose your favourite sexual abuse paintings”, this is a quotation from the website Fine Art America. Wanton Theatre Co presents A Crown of Laurels, an adaptation of Apollo & Daphne, of which the attempted rape of a Greecian nymph by God Apollo is the subject.

Daphne wants to have fun; she’s been planning this evening for months now. Finally, her sisters and friends are all together and about to get leathered. The night doesn’t go to plan, separating from the group, Daphne finds herself in the arms of Olly. Daphne hopes to have found a connection she has been longing for. Olly, a handsome, middle-class white junior lawyer, has other ideas.

In terms of adaptation, it’s by the books. Little has profound development, and if you’re familiar with the original tale or Caroline Kepnes novels – you know the likely outcome. Or, so you would suspect. For the most part, the first act is pleasant, with amiable, at times compelling, vocals courtesy of Herron.

Projection is an issue within Paradise Sanctuary if you don’t have mic set-ups. Although allowing for the live band to receive the correct acoustics, it’s audibility drowns out vocals.

Aesthetically, A Crown of Laurels is stripped back – reliance is on the live band, performance elements and writing. There are however a series of glasses, drinks and cocktails sitting across the stage. In pairs, they are small reminders of the setting, a minute touch showing a working mind behind tiny details.

We suffer drawback in the character of Olly, who, while attempts are made to make him interesting, is notably flat. Hurley in no way turns out poor performance, but he’s overwhelmed by Herron who brings tighter vocals and diverse emotion.

Then it hits, like a truck laden with uncomfortable, unknown by many, truth. A serious monologue about the art world today is the real merit of this production. Faultless in execution, there’s a sense of glass-like fragility in Herron’s voice, but her command of the stage is iron. To discuss the profit made from sexual abuse, desensitisation in the arts community is noble cause we applaud. It’s an issue in discussion for theatrics circles, but less so in the arts community.

A Crown of Laurels has protentional to ripple a community with its direct approach towards the billion-dollar profit on the back of under-age ‘subjects’ and painters historic sexual abuse. With investable characterisation, projection and clearer vocals there’s a defining play here.