I’ve never really been drawn to the true crime phenomenon, whether that be podcasts or docu-series, mainly because I’m the type of person who likes my endings wrapped up in neat little bows, and the ‘unsolved’ nature of much of this content drives me to distraction. The characters of Caitlin McEwan’s Bible John, playing at VAULT Festival following a successful Edinburgh Fringe run, face a similar problem.
Four women, all office temps, find that they share a love of true crime podcasts. A new series has been released chronicling the serial killer Bible John, the real-life figure who preyed on women at Glasgow’s famous Barrowlands Ballroom in the late 1960’s. The killer has never been identified to this day, but could this new podcast hold some new evidence?
These women, are women that we all know. Their every-day lives no different to the people we see around us, but confronted with the excitement of this new podcast, they become “OB-Sessed”. Soon important spreadsheets and normal life takes to the back burner as they fall deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole of Bible John’s killings, this play however, goes further, examining what happens when the rabbit hole goes no deeper.
Caitlin McEwan, who also stars in the production alongside Renee Bailey, Carla Garratt and Louise Waller, has written a particularly ingenious piece of theatre. The women, with their blue headphones recite facts and conjecture, some of which is projected on to the wall behind, but this isn’t simply a true crime podcast on stage.
The killings of Bible John take a backseat to deeper questions about the reasons that women choose to listen to this kind of material, and suggests that as the majority of serial killers are men, with female victims, women are more inclined to be drawn in to the stories, perhaps as a way of arming themselves against a real world threat.
It’s an impressively physical piece, with dancing reminiscent of the kind that would have dominated the Barrowlands in the 1960’s. More surprisingly, is that despite its subject matter, Bible John is often incredibly funny, part of this comes from the way the women react to new information and the effect it goes on to have in their lives, but more often than not it comes from McEwan’s knack of writing a killer line.
Bible John may not be able to offer us anything new on the investigation front, nor does it try to, but it does give a fresh perspective on the rise of the true crime genre, and more specifically how women respond to it. This play is both funny and fascinating in equal parts, and may even lead me to start listening to the odd true-crime podcast.