Edinburgh Fringe 2015
‘Psychopaths Jay, Mel and Steven meet up once in a while to hang up their guns and let their hair down – within the guidelines established for their protection and anonymity, of course. But when the innocent Teresa enters their world, loyalties are tested and the rules start to get broken, one by one. And when serial killers break the rules, the consequences can be a little… messy. But hey, rules are made to be broken, aren’t they?’
The Rules: Sex, Lies and Serial Killers tells the tale of three psychopaths meeting together and cathartically reflecting on their exotic hobby of murder. A cross between a support group and and old boys club, Mel, Jay and Steven to meet and discuss a craft that they see as illegal but not taboo.
Guiding their activities are the eponymous rules which are awkwardly digressed from by the arrival of the sweet natured Theresa, who’s supportive but oblivious to the ongoing penchant of her new friends.
It’s impossible not to feel it’s a sort of American psychos club; a Bret Easton Ellis inspired expansion of Patrick Bateman’s solo story to be a ‘what if he wasn’t the only one’ tale.
The setting to this is a high rise building conveniently compacted into the Space venue in the Radisson Blue Hotel. The garish, multicoloured backdrop is as close as this performance gets to its 1980s nod.
The studio is too confined for the excellence of these actors performances. There are too many instances when the characters, particularly Jay, had their back to the audience. That these four actors can portray such manic brilliance is the curse and the blessing of their skill: the venue is intimate enough to see the intensity in their eyes but too small for the dynamic that they’re trying to enact.
For all this the real shame of the performance comes from a script that never decides what it wants to be. It is described as ‘black comedy’ but most of the performance concentrates on its unique pretence. The latter revelations about just how interconnected the characters were to Theresa moves beyond deception and into farce, betraying much of the characterisation and realistic themes established in the first half hour.
What the script lacks in taut direction is more than made up for by the quality of the ensemble cast. All the actors lead where the script does not and they pump manic calibre into a performance that would otherwise be rendered static by a contorted story of coincidence.
In the end, there is a homage to American Psycho but it always feels like a distant cousin. The former’s humour was satirical and while moments here are funny, it never finds its tonal footing. Altogether this was an enjoyable, curious piece of theatre that was let down in its second half by the need to entertain a comvoluted deus ex machina segway.