This grim account of a prostitute’s murder is full of committed performances, but doesn’t delve far enough beyond the facts of the case.
In 2010 a pig farmer from Vancouver in Canada was convicted of six murders But the remains of 27 other, mostly indigenous, women were found at his out-of-town farm.
The obvious, repulsive conclusion was that the authorities had simply not been that bothered about the disappearance of so many people, because of who they were, and how they earned a living.
Although not based on this specific case, Colleen Murphy’s play picks up the idea of a serial killer whose skinning and disembowelling of a succession of prostitutes at his farm continues unchecked. His latest unnamed victim, played by Kirsten Foster, exchanges sexual services for drugs, but the deal includes having her hands tied. And once the job is done, her ghastly end is only a matter of time.
Despite her sister’s desperate attempts to get a police investigation underway, nothing whatever is done to recover her.
After all, as the Police Officer points out, women like these often disappear. There’s no body – no evidence worth following up. Perhaps they don’t want to be found. Perhaps they’ll show up again in a few months’ time. But more often as not, they don’t.
This official indifference is rightly exposed here as a disgrace in a civilised society. But sadly, once it becomes clear that the victim’s hands will not be untied, that she will be going nowhere, the play doesn’t actually move any further forward, either in plot or character development.
We already know she was a college student – a bright young woman who went off the rails when she started using drugs. As for the killer, a chilling Damien Lyne, we learn more or less nothing about what motivates his murderous instinct beyond the fact that his mum once threatened to put him on a train that never stops.
The performances – which include abuse and torture – are graphic and convincing enough to make this play difficult viewing. Foster’s character demonstrates a level of bravado and defiance that’s hard to imagine any woman displaying when being hung up by a pig hook in a barn.
The main narrative is told in a series of monologues by the woman’s sister, and the police officer, both positioned at either side of the stage. The sister’s determined efforts to stir the authorities from their apathy is impressive, and Olivia Darnley brings passion and resilience to her role. The police officer is also played with vigour by Joseph Rye. But the static staging, together with their long, episodic speeches, make this feel more like storytelling than drama.
It’s also difficult to glean much from the central characters’ expressions as they’re submerged in gloom, with the light reserved for the edges of the stage. This may reflect the dark, hideous nature of the action, but it makes it difficult to gauge their reactions to each other’s attempts either at intimidation or persuasion.
Fred Riding’s sound design creates a sinister undertone to the production, and Zoe Hammond’s sludge-covered set certainly makes the barn look like a truly repulsive place to find yourself trapped with a maniac.
Director Helen Donnelly has a talented cast. Kirsten Foster is especially impressive, giving a highly charged performance in a very challenging role, both physically and emotionally.
But this play doesn’t take us far enough beyond the facts of the case to make its horror story really stick.
• Until February 16.
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