Christie in Love, about serial killer John Christie, proved an interesting watch. Performed from the vantage point of the police, Christie in Love depicts some very human reactions to the horrifically violent crimes enacted upon Christie’s victims. While it is a good premise, I’m not sure if the performance achieves its full potential.
Performing in the round in a small space suits the piece perfectly; the intimacy of it allows the audience to see closely all three actor’s responses (Daniel Buckley, Jake Curran, Murray Taylor) to the action as it unfolds. In the middle of the stage is an open topped cage, filled with scrunched up newspaper, to represent the soil in Christie’s garden. Under the paper they keep furniture. The cage and paper are used and manipulated throughout the performance, which is a great use of resources and at times breathed comedy into a very heavy subject matter.
From the beginning, even as the audience walks in, the Constable (Buckley) tentatively digs at the with a shovel. A special mention must go to Buckley for his convincing performance – his evident fear of actually finding a body permeates through the audience; I too felt nervous for him. His reactions and responses are excellent, depicting the vulnerability and difficulty of being a policeman in particularly shocking cases. Personally, I had never really considered the effects it must have on a policeman, and I can imagine many others hadn’t either – Buckley’s performance is therefore highly thought provoking.
Buckley, Curran and Taylor work excellently as a trio – my commendations go to Director Mary Franklin for creating a flowing piece that shows the actors working well together while still cultivating their characters individualities. Taylor gives an unnervingly realistic performance as Christie, speaking softly as he did and at times I was unsure whether I should pity him or not, a feeling that definitely gives Taylor’s portrayal an edge. I was uncertain of Curran’s rather comic and shouty portrayal as the Inspector. Perhaps it is an issue of script rather than performer, but I felt the depiction was insensitive to the actual events that occurred and the deaths of the women he murdered. The persona that Curran creates does create an interesting rapport between himself and Taylor – making the Inspector seem more of a bad guy than the murderer – Christie – himself.
A really great scene is the re-enactment of the meeting and subsequent murder of Christie’s first victim, Ruth Fuerst. Using a life size, faceless, rag-doll esque figure made out of newspaper, Buckley acts as her puppeteer and voice as he and Taylor recreate the scene. While pretty traumatic, it leaves an impression with the audience and really hits home the enormity of Christie’s crimes – credit is due to designer Christopher Hone as ‘Ruth Fuerst’ is cleverly made and allows the play a greater depth as we are able to physically witness and picture the events.
In spite of this success, some of the lighting and music choices I felt at times were misplaced and fairly cliché. There were frequent black outs, with flashing lights, and Taylor screaming – I understand the effect they are going for, but I feel it is much overdone. Also the use of circus music I thought was distasteful and seems a mockery of the entire situation; too much obvious spectacle when in reality eight women died.
Ultimately, in spite of what I perceive to be a few glitches, the pros outweigh the cons – definitely an interesting play worth watching.
Christie in Love is playing Kings Head Theatre until 18 June. For more information and tickets, see Kings Head Theatre website.
Photo: Chris Tribble