The Space on the Mile, Edinburgh
Based on genuine historical characters and real life incidents, Steve Hennessy’s The Murder Club is set in 1922 and takes place in Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. Former actor Richard Prince (Ewan McInntosh) is in there for the murder of a more successful actor, William Terriss, outside the Adelphi Theatre in 1997. Prince has only evaded the death penalty by reason of temporary insanity and lately he’s more interested in conducting the resident orchestra than dwelling on his notorious past.
But the arrival of another murderer, the oleaginous Ronald True (Ryan Forrester), causes something of a stir. It turns out that the newcomer, a former drug addict, is adept at bending people to his will, including the crime-obsessed warder, Jane Coleman (Annalise McNichol). Ensuing events are watched by the spectre of True’s last victim, Olive Young (Phoebe Duncan), who wanders blood-splattered and desolate through Broadmoor, commenting on the action and pausing occasionally to speak directly to the audience.
This is an interesting tale, well researched and nicely acted (Duncan is a particular standout), but I do have some issues with the plot. It seems to me that True’s claims about the eponymous club – a supposed secret society of renowned killers – is a flimsy device, too readily taken as gospel by Prince. Would anyone be gullible enough to fall for it? Well, Prince does, though nothing we learn about the man suggests that he’s that credulous. And if I can’t accept the premise, I can’t believe the outcome.
Still, David Wotton’s direction, which has the characters slipping into tableaux whenever Olive Young speaks, is nicely handled and a genuine atmosphere of dread permeates the production. Just imagine, an actor killing another actor simply because his shows are doing better than yours. Better not let that notion spread around the Fringe….