10 Rillington Place

10 Rillington Place is successful in creating a chillingly uncanny aura; a domestic scene is twisted from the familiar into the unthinkable. Telling as true and horrifying a story as the serial murders by John Christie at 10 Rillington Place is no easy job to do well. However, Jan van der Black and Penny Gkritzapi make a strong attempt in their exploration of the infamous killer’s psyche. Van der Black’s bumbling older man, busying himself about the room with tidying, folding and offering “a nice cup of tea”, while rambling about stories from the past is oh so familiar to most of us. An underlying chill creeps beneath the surface of this familiarity and reveals itself at just the right number of moments as Christie’s murderous past is recounted.

It can be dangerous to separate the idea of evil from humanity, and 10 Rillington Place handled this excellently.

The pace is slow and consistent, trundling along like the old man himself, until sudden bursts of energy later in the performance which are genuinely rattling. These moments should have been complimented by the occasional overlapping soundscape consisting of a crying baby and a desperate mother, but sadly they were in fact let down by it. The recorded background sounds came off as a bit more Drama GCSE than hard-hitting dark theatre.

There were other unsteady moments, for example Christie’s one sided conversations with his “patients”. However, ultimately the anecdotal nature of the play enabled this to work: the killer’s patients made a larger impact as empty seats, ghosts, than they would have as physical bodies. The lack of these physical bodies also steered the production away from an unnecessary focus on gore.

What was admirable in the end was an acceptance of the very human nature of evil. It can be dangerous to separate the idea of evil from humanity, and 10 Rillington Place handled this excellently. The exploration of the memories and motivations of Christie did not try to make him into the trope of an evil character – not all murderers are Silence of the Lambs-esque mad men wearing skins in the basement. In presenting his human thoughts and emotions, the production addressed the potential for evil in all of us.

And for this it was all the more disturbing. If you are in search of a raw, sobering performance which is in need of fifty minutes of close concentration, this is the play for you.

Reviews by Chloe-Louise Saunders

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

From the condemned cell at Pentonville Prison and the infamous address, the latest one-man show from Jan van der Black examines the psyche and the soul of the serial killer, John Reginald Halliday Christie. Although forever associated with the tragic case of Timothy Evans, Christie was responsible for at least eight murders, and this play examines his motivations, his own admissions and the circumstances and activities that led him to the condemned cell. Drawing on transcripts from trials, medical reports on Christie, we reveal the story behind the story of one of Britain's most notorious serial killers.