Theatre review: Bible John, Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh

Bible John explores and our morbid fascination with true crime and cold cases.
Bible John explores and our morbid fascination with true crime and cold cases.
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Podcasts and Netflix have made true-crime buffs of us all.

Bible John, Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh * * * *

There’s something fascinating about raking over cold cases, holding discarded clues up to the light and looking for connections. In an odd wrinkle, the majority of true crime buffs are female despite – or more probably because – they are more likely to be victims.

It’s this empathy for the slain that informs Caitlin McEwan’s oddly joyous, vibrant exploration of the case of Bible John. Scotland’s most notorious serial killer was a Old Testament quoting patron of Glasgow’s Barrowlands Ballroom in 1969. He murdered three women and was never caught.

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His true identity is still a subject for debate and it captures the imagination of four young office workers (McEwan herself, Ella McLeod, Laurie Ogden and Lauren Santana) as they devour episodes of their favourite podcast devoted to the case. Impatient for the next episode and eager for a solution, they start going through the case on their own; poring over old interviews, comparing police artist’s sketches with possible suspects all in the name of righting historical atrocities.

It’s dense with information but director Lizzie Manwaring’s production barrels along with help from movement director Laurie Ogden. You’re not meant to be able to take in all the information as this isn’t simply an investigation, it’s a celebration. It’s celebration of enthusiasms - no matter how morbid - a celebration of the victims and a celebration of dancing. After all, where did those three women meet their murderer?

This is a curious, endlessly inventive, original work that celebrates life in the face of death. It’s an act of defiance.

Until 26 August.

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