There is a woman. She’s always late, sat on her bed, clicking through article after article on serial killers; you probably know her, you might even be her. She is one of four temps, each sitting quietly at their desk, all listening to the same podcast. And they’re not a alone - a growing number of people (particularly women) are fascinated by serial killers, and a host of podcasts, TV shows and online articles recount and analyse cases solved and unsolved.
Bible John is the name given to a real-life unidentified serial killer who struck in Glasgow in the late 1960s. The three women he murdered, Patricia Docker, Jemima McDonald and Helen Puttock, had all been out dancing at the Barrowlands Ballroom on the night of their deaths… but despite the crowded venue, no-one was ever successfully identified as the killer.
Fictional podcaster Carrie Le Roux reopens the cold-case, and as they realise their shared passion our four characters follow her down the investigative rabbit-hole. Although we only see the protagonists through the window of their true-crime obsession, they are still very much rounded, believable and relatable. We see them running, commuting, and excitedly gathering to share ideas - to try to help get justice for these women they never met. We see them worry that they are forgetting the actual victims in their excitement, and confronting their own pasts and traumas.
The main body of the piece is well-written and executed, with minimal props and a solid story. It feels, however, like there is a massive disjoint between the first three-quarters of the play and the final part, almost as if the company feels they need to explain themselves and justify the piece. Perhaps this is a result of people misjudging the interest as ghoulish, and is indeed reminiscent of warnings podcasts often give, yet it is still a shame the artists feel it needs to be said. Statistically most serial killers are male, and their victims are often female - and while it is obviously true that not all men and not all women will find themselves in these roles, it is sad that this piece feels the need to break immersion and state it so openly and apologetically.
It is as if it feels it can not rely on its audience realising that what looks like a morbid fascination comes, most often, from a position of self-defence. Understanding the tricks and tells of people who might attack you is a way to stop it happening - and it’s just as important to be told that it’s right to trust your instincts, that you don’t owe creepy people anything, and that it’s OK to get yourself out of situations you don’t feel comfortable in.
It’s clear that all the performers care passionately, not just about the injustice of these unsolved crimes but about the women whose assaults and murders were not given the attention they needed and deserved. By focusing on just a few ordinary women, this play highlights the worries and dangers that face all of us. It keeps the focus sympathetically on the victims, and while commenting on the sometimes sensationalist reporting, shines a light on what draws people into following true crime.
Whether you’re a full-on “Murderino”, the long-suffering partner of one, or someone who knows nothing about the genre, this piece is an interesting and sensitive look at an old unsolved case - and at how people, particularly women, are banding together in the face of more and more reporting on murderers and their capture.