This wannabe serial killer isn't doing it for kicks. So why is she beomcing a Ladykiller? Daniel Perks reviews Madeline Gould's one-woman psycho-drama:

Madeline Gould’s script is one of the best written one-woman pieces at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe. A bold opening statement.

But Ladykiller, the darkly comic story of a wannabe serial killer testing out her first murder on an unsuspecting hotel customer, is an exercise in how to set up a character and establish their motives all over one scene and in sixty minutes. Without it getting stale, or repetitive, or old. A tall order.

The trick with Gould’s narrative is in the preparation – it never truly reveals Hannah McClean’s sinister reasons for the murder. It doesn’t feel the impulse to share every piece of research gleaned, yet Gould and director Madelaine Moore are both able to create a detailed world that the audience feel comfortable observing. The middle of Ladykiller strays into lecture territory but is saved by McClean’s magnetic performance and total commitment to her characterisation.

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Hannah McClean (image courtesy of The Other Richard)

Women don’t kill for kicks, apparently. Their psychology says so. None of this creative team believe that – McClean is not so impulsive. She takes pride in her work, sees herself as a functional human being that can exude charm and innocence and remorse. Indeed, that is how the audience sees her in the beginning. McClean’s ability to switch between horrified hotel cleaner, psychotic murderess and rational observer is effortless. She describes the act as intellectual masturbation – there is certainly something heady and addictive about the deep-red blood-stained dress, the adrenaline thrill and the emotional instability that Moore amplifies in the production. Jennifer Rose’s lighting changes, subtle highlights and red hues only add to the lustfully charged atmosphere.

Tiny insights into the maid’s past give clues as to what her reasons for the kill are. Gould never provides a full explanation – in many ways, this would be an attempt to justify the action. Some choices don’t have an ulterior motive, or a justification. Despite not being impulsive, there is something to suggest that McClean decided on this path without being pushed down it by a damaged history. And she owns it, wears it like a badge of pride. Gould subverts the traditional image of femininity and McClean uses such innocence to full advantage.

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Hannah McClean (image courtesy of The Other Richard)

“I’m disgusting. And I’m gonna get away with it. How does that make you feel?”

Intellectually impressed. Ashamed of the female stereotype that society has created. A little revolted. But most of all, engaged and entranced by the production value of Ladykiller.




Ladykiller runs at Pleasance Courtyard as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2018 until 27 August 2018. For further information, please visit the venue website.