A review of KILLER by Philip Ridley. Directed by Jamie Lloyd. Performed by John Macmillan. Shoreditch Town Hall, 02.03.17.

Three monologues. One actor. A derelict basement. Headphones. Darkness.

The audience is seated in a square, chairs facing outwards. A voice runs through the drills: you should be hearing this in your left ear… left, left, LEFT! The lights go out. It’s very, very dark.

First up, a tale of leather-jacketed bullyboys. John Macmillan performs in a separate room, a binaural microphone capturing vivid, spatial, in-yer-ear sound. The expected hallmarks of Philip Ridley in full monologue are present and correct, painting ultra-violence with plosives. Performance and production conjure a near-perfect illusion as Macmillan’s breath seems to blow across the back of your neck.

Lights come up and we are ushered to an adjoining corridor. The second tale – a butler protects his mistress from spiralling violence – combines slick horror movie ‘visuals’ with character study. What had worked before, now feels aimless: the story borrowed, sound lacking dimension, the space devoid of meaning. KILLER’s over-ear grip on our nightmares starts to weaken.

The final fable – of fame and feathers – requires the audience to stand. Ridley’s text is at its most propulsive, yet the production struggles to keep pace, throttling back when it should be screaming. Things fall apart with the addition of redundant Grand Guignol. The climactic moment when we see Macmillan again lacks all power, a mere insistence, perhaps, that this has been live and not played-back.

BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO showed what horrors can be achieved when the artifice is in full sight. Having found a perfect vehicle for the first monologue – “do it on the radio”* – we wish Jamie Lloyd had played more aggressively with the possibilities.

  • COST: Tickets from £15 to £25 (availability for some performances 08.03.17)
  • WHERE: Shoreditch Town Hall, Old Street, London, EC1V 9LT
  • WHEN: Until Saturday 8 April 2017


* EDUCATING RITA (1983), with apologies to Willy Russell.

Featured image: THE PITCHFORK DISNEY/KILLER, Shoreditch Town Hall.