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The now infamous case of the 1924 ‘thrill killers’ Leopold and Loeb is a well-mined source of theatrical material, from Patrick Hamilton’s 1929 play Rope, in turn transformed into Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 film of the same name, to this, Stephen Dolginoff’s 2005 musical Thrill Me.

This is a show of tiny and exquisite detail: from the perfectly tailored suits to the era-evocative brass telephone and leather valise which populate the spare but highly effective set.

Told as a series of flashbacks, this atmospheric two-hander begins at Leopold’s fifth parole hearing in 1958. Previously tight-lipped, but now desirous of release, Nathan ‘Babe’ Leopold finally decides to divulge the full story of the murder of 14 year old Bobby Franks, committed simply ‘because they could’. The claustrophobic relationship between the pair is explored to great effect in this well-constructed script and the lengths to which Leopold will go in order to satisfy the Nietzsche-worshipping Loeb’s depraved craving for thrills are tightly written.

Director Guy Retallack has resumed the helm of this impressive production that comes from the same creative team that originally staged the show’s UK premiere at the Tristan Bates Theatre and there is much to admire in this intense, intimate and atmospheric piece. The richly drawn narrative progresses swiftly, seamlessly and with great clarity under Retallack’s direction and at its conclusion one is left wanting more.

To its credit, Thrill Me resists the urge to descend into lazy melodrama and manages to steer well clear of cheap sensationalism. This is a show of tiny and exquisite detail: from the perfectly tailored suits to the era-evocative brass telephone and leather valise which populate the spare but highly effective set. Including effective lighting and sound and an impressively talented cast, this is a classy affair throughout.

Much of the credit must go to the casting of both Leopold and Loeb. Danny Colligan captures impressively Leopold’s seeming vulnerability in his perfectly controlled performance and Jo Parsons’ psychopathic Loeb is beautifully judged. Both are in possession of fine voices, especially Colligan whose tone is exquisite.

It may be incongruous to express how entertaining this production is considering the darkness of the subject matter; but utterly, grippingly, totally absorbing and thoroughly enjoyable it certainly is. A show of infinite quality.


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The Blurb

Chicago, 1924. Two wealthy college kids. One obsessed with crime, the other love. A contract signed in blood... They believed that they'd committed the perfect murder - or had they? So many events were called the ‘crime of the century'. None however engaged the world like the case of self-confessed Thrill Killers. This musical thriller provides a thought-provoking examination of a relationship fuelled by domination, manipulation and sexual pleasure. 'There is no production more intelligent, atmospheric and haunting than this' ***** (Sunday Telegraph). 'Critic's choice' (London Evening Standard).

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