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Review: Bible John (Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh)

A famous '60s killer is investigated in this award-winning show

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Bible John
© Alessa Davison

There are a fair few serious Serial addicts out there, while Netflix's Making a Murderer has made homicide a hot topic in the media. It's what makes Bible John's initial act so searingly great. Four co-workers (though they don't seem to be doing any work) are hooked on a true-crime podcast, comparing their favourite seasons and episodes like you might do your favourite Harry Potter novels. When the truth is more sickening than fiction, you have to treat it like a fantasy just to make it palatable.

Their favourite case is that of Bible John – a to-this-day uncaught serial killer who murdered his way across Glasgow in the '60s, sparking national pandaemonium. Men in the city were issued with cards to prove that they weren't the murderer, while women had to put up with having a menace on the streets.

The four, initially sat around a cluttered office desk, are desperate to find out what happens next, itching for the next episode to be released – binge-watched barbarity.

It's as they delve deeper and deeper into the theories about Bible John's murder the show loses focus – it starts to feel more like a regurgitated Wikipedia entry, as if Caitlin McEwan's piece is seduced by the sensationalism it's trying to parody.

This may have been the point, but the problem is that the play settles on conclusions it infers within the first 15 minutes – yes, our overblown glamorisation of these topics is problematic, and yes, we shouldn't try and filter these crimes through our Netflix consumer mindset. A second debate, about the gendered nature of serial murder, runs in tandem and is engrossing, but never really comes together neatly.

The quartet of performers is consistently engaging – whipping out evidence and microphones in a blizzard of evidence and enthusiasm. Lizzie Manwaring keeps things zipping along rapidly in an hour that is chock full of questions, never daring to settle for simple answers, but ultimately feels a bit patchy.

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