A disappointingly thin analysis of female victimhood by the Charlie Hartill Theatre Reserve Award winners for 2019. Maggie Kelly reviews Bible John:

Bible John by Caitlin McEwan rather curiously decides to reach its main point within the first twenty minutes. It’s a main point that doesn’t merit those twenty minutes, let alone the forty that follow.

Bible John Pleasance Courtyard
Laurie Ogden (image courtesy of Katie Edwards)

The show is anchored upon a discussion of victimhood, on the fact that serial killers are usually men and women are the ones that are killed. When these women are killed, society ignores all of their past achievements and labels them exclusively as ‘victims’, always tainted by the sensational shadow of their killer.

This is all true and correct. But this is also information that a lot of the audience are aware of beforehand.

Bible John, while including some ragingly beautiful monologues and innovative storytelling techniques, treats this conclusion as if it’s a revelation. This point could have been where the show starts, using it as a springboard to develop nuance, explore the anger of men and women, anything really.

Instead it’s where the piece shudders to a stop.

Bible John Pleasance Courtyard
Poor Michelle

The four performers (McEwan, Ella McLeod, Laurie Ogden and Lauren Santana) do their best with a jumbled production. They start off listening to a podcast, the true crime genre. It’s about Bible John, a serial killer on the loose in Glasgow who has never been caught; they feel like now, on this podcast, after sifting through new information, that an epiphany might strike. It does not; the journalist behind the podcast apologizes. The four of them feel cheated, the unpleasant feeling when a narrative refuses to tie together leaves an itch at the back of the brain.

But then they go down the rabbit-hole – in reality only a few centimeters below the surface. And while it feels like the company are trying to be anarchic, the last forty minutes end up more confused than anything else. They talk to the audience, they talk to each other. They tell each other off for sensationalising the tale of the serial killer in a clearly pre-rehearsed sequence. The latter point is fertile ground for further development but it never gets the chance to shine.

Bible John Pleasance Courtyard
Poor Michelle (image courtesy of Katie Edwards)

The only moments where Bible John comes to life are those points where the script says what it wants to say without having to hide behind the true crime narrative. McEwan’s monologue about being angry without nuance seems to be one of the few instances when the audience is trusted with the same amount of information as the company.

It’s brilliant. It’s revelatory, it’s inflammatory.

Then the fire quickly goes out.

There are some interesting moments in Bible John. But it may be just as effective to listen to the podcast instead.

★★☆☆☆

Bible John is now playing at Pleasance Courtyard until 26 August 2019. For more information or to buy tickets, please visit the festival website.