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Killer review at Shoreditch Town Hall, London – ‘creepy and disorientating’

John MacMillan in Killer. Photo: Matt Humphrey

For the second production in his Philip Ridley double-bill beneath Shoreditch Town Hall, Jamie Lloyd turns off the lights. While his revival of Ridley’s debut, The Pitchfork Disney was a conventional albeit claustrophobic staging, this world premiere of Ridley’s latest play, Killer, uses binaural sound to create an unnervingly intimate experience.

Performed live by John Macmillan, the production is made up of three monologues, two performed in the near-dark, one in total blackness. The audience is led into the chilly basement space, kitted out with headphones and seated in a circle. MacMillan’s voice flutters around the room like a malevolent songbird. There are times when you can almost feel his breath on your neck.

This being Ridley there’s a lot of squelch and crunch and splatter, but Killer also shows the playwright at his most playful – the last piece, involving a miraculous albino ostrich, is as funny as Ridley’s one‘ comedy Radiant Vermin, while the middle section, in which the gentle, routine-fixated companion of an elderly widow is caught up in a Romero bloodbath – a kind of Afternoon Tea of the Dead – is both amusing and dramatically satisfying. Lloyd, one of the most horror-literate directors around, is a perfect fit for the material.

The combination of MacMillan’s versatile vocal performance (prim, gruff, terrifying, sometimes all three) and the Ringham brothers and George Dennis’ sound design is both unsettling and compelling, even if the gore-flecked first story feels a little Ridley-by-numbers and it’s a shame we don’t get to see how some of the foley sound effects were created.

The lack of cohesion between the three pieces is faintly frustrating, but as an experiment in binaural storytelling, Lloyd turns what, in other hands. might have been a flimsy Ridley scrapbook into something more discomforting: a disorientation engine, a nightmare machine.

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Verdict
A creepy and unsettling, if uneven, experiment in binaural storytelling
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