The State vs John Hayes, King’s Head, review: ‘disturbingly charismatic’

Lucy Roslyn, The State vs John Hayes. Picture: Jemma Gross

Lucy Roslyn, The State vs John Hayes. Picture: Jemma Gross - Credit: Archant

It’s impossible to take your eyes off this charismatic of a murderer destined for the electric chair, says Aline Waites.

What goes through the mind of a criminal the night before they go to the electric chair? Actress Lucy Roslyn has researched American killers awaiting execution and taken on the persona of Elyese Duckie – a married woman with feelings for her own gender. She has adopted an extra identity – a man called John Hayes – in order to cope with her situation. John Hayes is a disturbingly charismatic young man based on memories of her father – all the female prisoners lust after him.

John Hayes (Elyese) is dressed as a boy, and talks of herself as if she is a man. She sits on the bed and smiles, constantly making jokes about her situation and identity problem.

Every so often there is an aggressive pain in her chest which interrupts the narrative because of her body jerking violently when the pain grabs her. “I have this pain near my heart – but it won’t matter after tomorrow will it?”

John Hayes shows no repentance: “I have never felt the need to explain what I do.” When she shot Dale, her only regret is that she left the gun behind. It was an antique and worth a fortune. She had intended to use the money to pay for her future life with her lover Loraine.

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The setting is simple and claustrophobic. Just a cell with an iron bedstead – but effects give a complete soundscape of a prison, women’s screams, clanging doors, noises of a place filled with unhappy, disturbed people

She involves the audience, speaking directly to us. You can feel her eyes upon you. It is impossible to look away from that face.

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Rating: 5/5 stars

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