Christie in Love, King’s Head Theatre, review: ‘Revival of tale about serial killer John Christie’

Christie in Love at the King's Head Theatre. Picture: Chris Tribble

Christie in Love at the King's Head Theatre. Picture: Chris Tribble - Credit: Archant

Reviving a play about the serial killer John Christie could beg the question why – after all, Christie was convicted for his crimes back in 1953. Howard Brenton wanted his ‘nasty little play’ to be a vicious critique of post war values of the stiff upper lip variety and the sexual prurience that went with it.

Over 40 years later, the play’s form is still fresh but its preoccupation with sexual repression feels dated.

Staged around a claustrophobic boxed-off set designed by Christopher Hone, the action is shoehorned into a compact 65 minutes.

A spirit of anarchy is immediately established: hangdog Constable [Daniel Buckley] stares into the pit of Christie’s 10 Rillington Place, sweeping up crumpled newspapers as he searches for female victims and his pace is painfully, absurdly slow.

He and Inspector [Jake Curran] try to liven up proceedings by shouting out filthy limericks.

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In one fantastically choreographed moment, the two share a cigarette with the broom becoming a phallic obstacle.

Heightened reality mixes with some naturalism in the way Christie [Murray Taylor] is presented. Details from Christie’s life - including being gassed and rendered unable to speak for years - are cleverly coded into his horrific monologue delivered like a furious beast writhing amongst the newspapers with a mask on and tubing unraveling out of his trousers.

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This play is one tough gig to direct but Mary Franklin rises to the challenge with this visceral production.

Taylor’s performance is outstanding with his defensive body language and watchful eyes. Curran and Buckley are like stooges out of an Ealing comedy gone horribly dark.

It’s the post-colonial fury over Britain’s fading empire that doesn’t quite resonate.

‘The mothers of England depend on you,’ shouts the Inspector.

Even said in heavy irony that sentiment is not made relevant enough.

Christie in Love is at the King’s Head Theatre.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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