Bible John
  • By Liam Rees
  • |
  • 17th Aug 2019
  • |
  • ★★★★★

In the late 1960s three women were murdered by an Old Testament quoting serial killer by the name of Bible John. At least, that’s the story the media circulated. No one knows if his name was in fact John – the Barrowland Ballroom, where the murders took place, wasn’t the kind of place where people used their real names. No one knows what the killer looked like. No one knows if it was one or several killers. The only thing we do know is that the murdered women, Patricia Docker, Jemima McDonald, and Helen Puttock, went out to dance and lost their lives.

Subtly suffused with complexity

Fast forward to the present day and Bible John has never been caught. Four young women bond over their fascination with true crime stories and reconstruct the Barrowland murders to find the missing piece of the puzzle. Charged with anger and anxiety they rattle off their theories, piecing together the facts. The frenetic dialogue feels like a relay race with the ensemble supporting each other to get to the finish line and finally find closure. Using every trick in the theatrical book to explore every dead end and red herring, the show is subtly suffused with complexity. Why do the white women trust the police but the women of colour don't? Why do true crime stories always focus on the murderer and never the victim? And why is it always men that kill women?

There can't be a neat happy end. That would be disrespectful to the victims and it would be a slap in the face to all the women who live in fear that they might go out dancing and not make it back alive. So instead of coming up with a contrived conclusion they throw subtlety out the window and let loose their righteous anger. Apparently there's nothing to be feared, only things to be understood. Bible John proves that’s not always the case. There is nothing to understand here, no overarching order to the chaos. Just a cold case without an answer; an open wound that won’t heal; a background hum of fear that can’t be drowned out. And it is exhausting.

Reviews by Liam Rees

Pleasance Courtyard

Bible John

★★★★★
Underbelly, Cowgate

America Is Hard to See

★★★★★
Underbelly, Cowgate

CONSPIRACY

★★★
Pleasance Courtyard

UNCONDITIONAL

★★★
Pleasance Courtyard

Signals

★★★
Summerhall

Everything Not Saved

★★★

Since you’re here…

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

1969 at the Barrowlands Ballroom in Glasgow, three women are murdered by an Old Testament-quoting serial killer, nicknamed Bible John. He's never been caught. 2019, four women bound by their obsession with true crime want to change that. Immersing themselves in the world of Bible John and his victims, they try to solve the case, once and for all. A riotous, furious, joyful exploration of violence, gender and one of Scotland's darkest mysteries. Samuel French New Play Award 2017. **** (Scotsman). **** (Stage). Presented by Bible John Play and The Pleasance. 2019 Charlie Hartill Special Reserve Fund recipient.

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