Like sirens, four nurses emerge from the bathtubs on stage. As we learn about them in monologue and dialogue, we are introduced to a quartet of women who appear resoundingly normal; flawed, yes, but all too human in their responses to their profession, and to telling us what in their life might have sent them seriously astray.
Writer Jessica Ross’ play is both character piece and psychological thriller, based on a true-life incident which was uncovered in Austria in 1991, in which four nurses – the ‘Lainz Angels of Death’ – were convicted of killing 49 patients and suspected of killing 150 more, many by the undetectable method of forcing water into their lungs.
The murder scene witnessed here is disturbing and there is an incredibly dark sense of humour at play (Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Want to Have Fun is used for one scene transition). In the individual monologue pieces there is also more of an effort to unpick the motives that might have driven the quartet; from childhood trauma to substance abuse to existential crisis and the need to belong.
Yet in Steven Roy’s direction there is often a sense of lightness when the material is crying out for intensity, a feeling that this is a medical drama where new depths of horror are waiting to be plumbed. It’s an intriguing and well-performed character piece, although perhaps only true crime aficionados will be thoroughly satisfied.