Play tells story of how post office clerk John Christie became a serial killer
- Credit: Alamy
A corrupt and failing police investigation sees an innocent man hanged and a murderer on the loose in Howard Brenton’s award winning early play, Christie in Love.
In the ‘40s and ‘50s, post office clerk John Christie murdered eight women, including his wife Ethel and hid their bodies around his Notting Hill boarding house, 10 Rillington Place.
But in a heart-rending miscarriage of justice, his lodger Timothy Evans was hanged in 1950 for killing wife Beryl and 13-month-old daughter Geraldine.
When three years later Christie was found to be the culprit, the case helped lead to the abolition of capital punishment.
Mary Franklin, artistic director and co-founder of Rough Haired Pointer is reviving Brenton’s 1969 three-hander at the King’s Head.
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The unsettling drama centres on Christie’s interrogation by two officers and asks whether his crimes were symptomatic of a wider malaise in society.
“It was embarrassing for the police because it exposed the mistakes they made.
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Christie was in the police during the war and was a registered Special Constable while he was murdering people,” says Franklin.
“It’s a very dark comedy and an exploration of evil. There’s a sense of: why are we laughing at this? It’s all very uncomfortable.”
The play invites the audience into Christie’s mind as he is quizzed for the grisly murders which involved gassing then strangling and raping his victims.
“We’re never going to understand why he committed these murders.
“No one understands except Christie,” says Franklin, whose company aims to stage shows that are deliberately rough around the edges.
“He tells us his opinions and there’s a sense of what makes a murderer any different from the rest of us, what stops us being like him?”
Brenton’s play raises more questions than it answers, and challenges audiences to ask: what kind of love is acceptable, and why are people so fascinated by morbid events?
“Christie was very normal looking and he got away with it, which makes you wonder what everyone is doing now,” jokes Mary.
Christie in Love plays at the King’s Head until June 18.