The Gorbals Vampire

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29/10/16

Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow

We’re often told that truth is stranger than fiction and the story of the Gorbals Vampire definitely falls into that category. It happened in September 1954. Police were summoned to attend a strange gathering in the Southern Necropolis, Glasgow’s huge cemetery, late one evening. They found bands of children, armed with improvised weapons, searching for ‘the man with metal teeth,’ a creature they claimed had already killed and devoured several children from a local school.

It appears to be a case of mass hysteria, inspired (so some people claimed at the time) by Imported American comics like Tales From the Crypt, which even resulted in them being banned for several years. Whatever the causes, the Citizens Theatre has chosen to commemorate the story with a community project including a play, specially written by Johnny McKnight, an exhibition and a short story competition (on which I was delighted to be one of the judges).

The play is an incredibly ambitious undertaking, utilising over fifty non-professional actors, original music and highly effective lighting effects. It has adult actors portraying children and perfectly illustrates the way that rumours can originate, spread and become exaggerated in the manner of ‘Chinese Whispers.’ This is fabulous stuff, deftly choreographed and often hilarious in its depictions of everyday Glasgow life – there are several performances here that belie the amateur status of the actors. Appropriately as we move towards Halloween, it’s also wonderfully atmospheric and delightfully sinister. At any rate it went down a storm with the packed audience.

It’s only showing for a couple of days, which is a pity as this is one community production that would surely appeal to a wider audience.

4 stars

Philip Caveney

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