Edinburgh Fringe 2019
Bible John relates the story of a Glasgow based serial killer in the late 1960’s. Fifty years later, four women bond over their shared interest in the crimes. Will they unmask the killer ?
Bible John is highly recommended and all of the cast and production team are marked as ones to watch.
Bible John was the moniker given to a serial killer operating in Glasgow in the late 1960’s. He murdered three women he had encountered at a popular dancehall. Fifty years later, with the crimes still unsolved, four women develop a fascination with the events and turn amateur sleuth.
This is a highly competent and engaging piece of theatre, performed by a talented ensemble and adeptly directed by Lizzie Manwaring. At surface level, the piece centres around the bond forged between four young women during an attempt to piece together a real-life jigsaw. The story is charmingly conveyed with verve and relentless energy, with repetition being a theme. The relatively minimalist set transforms itself continuously – the audience has to work to keep up. Bible John weaves story-telling, dramatic interaction, minor audience participation, dance and clever use of projection. And, by the end, they have told their story ; it may just not be the one that the audience may have expected.
Bible John can further be seen as a quest for answers in a world in which they are taken for granted, being merely a click on a mobile phone away. But look more deeply and it becomes a commentary on obsession. Maybe it’s no so different from Melville’s Moby Dick : Captain Ahab wasn’t just trying to kill a whale, it was a medium for his obsessive personality.
However, a significant layer is still to unfold. How many readers could name a single victim of Dr Death or The Yorkshire Ripper? I imagine very few; yet, we know the names of the perpetrators (Harold Shipman and Peter Sutcliffe). And herein, touchingly and poignantly, lies the final and most substantive message of the show. The three victims were all young, outgoing, vivacious women. They had lives, families, aspirations, friends. The phrase “your worst nightmare” is a hackneyed expression – until, of course, you are referring to the murder of a loved one. The husband of one victim is starkly informed “I’m sorry son; your wife’s been murdered”. And so, while Bible John holistically may be at times complex, writer Caitlin McEwan’s message is simple and well made : don’t pay homage to the monster – instead, stop and remember Patricia Docker, Jemima McDonald and Helen Puttock.