Christie In Love
Belinda Dillon, Exeunt Magazine
Also intense, in a decidedly more unsettling way, was Substance and Shadow’s revival of Christie in Love, Howard Brenton’s 1969 three-hander about serial killer John Christie, who was hanged in 1953 for the murders of eight women, the bodies of which were found hidden around his house and garden in West London. It’s a disturbing play, still powerful in its depiction of a warped and dangerous mind, and this is a strong production, faithful to the text, and a perfect fit for the Bike Shed’s subterranean space.
A constable digs for bones in Christie’s garden, discomforted by the crimes and the air of deviant sexuality that surrounds them; to calm himself, he recites obscene limericks. Shovelling aside piles of scrunched up newspaper, he eventually unearths Christie himself, who emerges as if conjured by that strange combination of moral outrage and seedy titillation so peculiar to the tabloid press. An inspector interrogates Christie about his crimes, and although Brenton doesn’t offer us any answers to why he did what he did, it is implied that the line between passion and perversion is anything but straightforward.
As the constable and the inspector, Sam Pike and Nathan Simpson convey that tension with real skill; and Pike’s manipulation of a mannequin to play out one of Christie’s murders is particularly adept. As Christie, Midge Mullin delivers just the right amount of sinister banality and repressed malevolence, by turns meek and subservient, then furious, then gloating, so proud of his ability to creep about in his ‘plims’, silently delivering his judgments on women’s right to life. Chilling.