Review: Ladykiller, VAULT Festival

Do you ever think about how to kill someone and get away with it? Play the plan over and over in your mind until you snap out of it and laugh off the idea? Yes?

With documentaries like Making a Murderer and The Ted Bundy Tapes being binge-watched around the world and true crime podcasts touring internationally to sold- out audiences, we seem to have hit peak serial killer obsession. A show centred around murder is therefore in a prime position to be a sure-fire hit.

And what a blood-curdling shriek of a hit it is!

The first time the chambermaid (Hannah McClean) thought about killing someone was when a guest shits the bed. It wasn’t just a small turd, but rather a flood of faeces. She thought about it for about 36 days, but it would have been too easy. Why kill for revenge, when you can have the pleasure of meticulously planning the crime?

Written by Madeline Gould and directed by Madelaine Moore, Ladykiller – brought to the festival by new writing company The Thelmas, is about far more than a bloodthirsty psychopath. It’s about the real gender imbalance; society’s preconception that women must have a reason to kill someone and can’t just be fucked up and do it for the kicks.

Gould’s script is bold and slicing, bouncing the audience from rolling laughter to sharp intakes of breath. We are treated to an unflinching look into the mind of a first-time killer who seems to be treating the incident like a party planner treats a wedding reception.

McClean is the perfect psychopath. I mean, she plays the perfect psychopath, her uniform drenched in blood, hands and forearms glistening red. Twitching herself back into composure, she paces between the leather armchair and the body, made by Baska Wesolowska, which I think is an actress before I see that it has no face. The way McClean plays the audience seems effortless. Talking to us as if we are witnesses, she switches from victim to killer and back again, leaving me baffled as to which side of her I believe.

Lighting designer Jennifer Rose is a master at enhancing these moments, knowing when a scene requires the stage to fall dark and when the pace demands all lights shining down on our murderer as she twists and turns the narrative just the way she wants.

Hours after leaving the play, I am still wondering if anything could make me snap. The titular character of Ladykiller seems so adept at blending in and mirroring ‘normal people’. Are there perhaps the makings of a murderer buried deep within us all? Well, I say that, but on the way home I accidentally stepped on a snail and I’m now writing the invites to a private funeral, so I think I’m ok.

But that is what makes Ladykiller so poignant. I know I should be shocked by what I have witnessed, but I leave feeling, well, satisfied. The story burrows itself into my head and I am left wondering ‘How would I get away with murder?’

Ladykiller is playing at the Vault Festival until 3 March. For more information and tickets, see the Vault Festival website