The past and present collide with grim foreboding in this complex and layered four-woman play as part of The Pleasance’s 2019 Edinburgh Fringe offering.
Caitlin McEwan, Ella McLeod, Laurie Ogden and Lauren Santana comprise a diverse but complimentary cast, half-investigators-half-audience, posing questions but unafraid to offer answers and theories, right up until the last, impossible one.
Rather fittingly, the play opens with women confessing to a love of murder shows, addressing the recent proliferation of and fascination with true crime television shows.
From there, four of those characters are brought to life, four everywomen and colleagues bonding over what they view as a slightly weird, marginal obsession.
We move to one show specifically, the Bible John podcast by American journalist Cary Leroux. The first half is effectively their thoughts and reflections on each episode of the show that examines the deaths of three women after dancing at the Barrowlands Ballroom in Glasgow in 1969.
So far so conventional, each woman sharing with zeal their own theories and thoughts on a genre and a mystery that has captivated thousands.
The much-anticipated final episode, though, brings little in the way of closure as Leroux admits she has no idea who Bible John is, and the killer will likely remain undiscovered.
That provokes frustration and soul-searching from the four women, each determined to do what Leroux couldn’t, but in trying to do so the play shifts.
Every dramatic technique seems to be deployed, from dance to repetition and as we explore the role of women in these murders, how at the time very little was done to prevent similar happening and how still, 50 years on, the same still occurs throughout the world.
This is, by all accounts, a profound and deeply necessary piece of theatre, a caustic examination not just of one serial killer but of how society at large enables and unwittingly protects such evil.
Some of it works effectively, but at times the plot of dramatising a murder to expose the dramatisation of murders – how we sensationalise them and forget the human cost – becomes convoluted and strains at its own limitations.
Each actress takes turns to monologue over the injustices and fears that lay at the heart of this and, for many women, remain as real today as they did 50 years ago.
As striking and urgent as this was, it felt like there was scope for more; much of the evidence given was anecdotal, when the facts make the arguments even starker.
Still this, during a Fringe that seems to have made the welcome shift to more female performers, is engaging and alarming all at once with genuine purpose even when all seems lost.
WHERE: Pleasance Above
WHEN: August 3-12, 14-26