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Ladykiller presented by The Thelmas – Review

LadykillerRuth Graham, the wife of the late American television evangelist Billy Graham, was once asked in an interview if she had ever considered divorce. “Divorce? No. Murder? Yes.” But there’s a difference between contemplating killing someone and committing the act. Ladykiller is, to put it bluntly, about a lady killer (Hannah McClean). The play begins with a hotel chambermaid (I looked up whether that job title is still in use – it is, though ‘hotel room attendant’ is sometimes used) – in uniform, with a considerable amount of blood splattered over her apron as well as on both hands and arms.

The working conditions of chambermaids are not great where this woman works – it can be reasonably assumed that the workforce is not heavily unionised, if at all. Her hourly rate is below, assuming the play is set in 2019, the National Minimum Wage let alone the Living Wage. That isn’t, however, a salient point in this play, which focuses on the motivations behind the taking of another person’s life. She has reason to believe that her gender can work to her advantage, although as this is a (very) dark comedy, practically everything should be taken with few pinches of salt. But she might have a point in saying not too many people, authorities included, would necessarily assume she committed murder. Traditional gender-based assumptions being what they are, there’s some palpable annoyance on the maid’s part that the criminal justice system still (apparently) is bound to be more lenient towards her than it would be if she were hypothetically male.

What she has to do (or so she thinks) is get hysterical when putting the call into the emergency services and indulge in more hyped up emotions when later questioned by police. Therefore, what happened will be considered an act of self-defence rather than something premeditated. The narrative doesn’t extend as far as telling the audience what happens after the cops arrive at the hotel, as the curtain falls just as there’s a loud knock on the door. It is, of course, always better for a play to leave the audience wanting more as opposed to outstaying its welcome, but in this case, the play feels as though it lacks an entire second half.

The rapport with the audience is good, and the comic timing nothing short of excellent, with encouragements such as, “Be nice to people who work in customer service”, suggesting, slightly sinisterly, that there just might be consequences for people who are obnoxious. Rather more revealing is the assertion that the more a customer service worker is nice to a customer, the more they dislike them. The staging is kept simple, with just a lamp, armchair and the victim for company, and even these feel superfluous at times, such is the strength of the script.

McClean’s delivery is calm and charming, to the point where a more explosive delivery of another production in the adjacent ‘vault’ at the Vault Festival could be heard faintly on occasion. In the final quarter of the play, the subjects covered become wider, as the maid turns her attention to captains of industry who, she alleges (with some justification) don’t live in the ‘real world’, and Gary Barlow’s previous participation in a tax avoidance scheme. Certainly not for the fainthearted, this is an amusing and surprisingly thought-provoking experience.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Vault Festival 2019 Pleasance Award Winner
A hotel room, a maid and a dead woman.
It’s not what it looks like, really, it’s not. It was self-defence… and anyway the woman was asking for it

The chambermaid considers herself to be a pretty normal person; she reads books. She pretended to read the party manifestos at the General Election. She’s even read The Psychopath Test and she’s pretty sure she’s not one so…

Ladykiller is a blood-soaked morality tale about victimhood, power and flipping the gender rule book on psychopathy. Ladykiller charts one woman’s journey from violent oppression to bloody revolution; a jet-black comedy for the age of the gig economy.

Creative Team
Director: Madelaine Moore
Writer: Madeline Gould
Lighting Design: Jennifer Rose
‘Jane Doe’ made by Baska Wesolowska

HER Hannah McClean

27th Feb – 3rd Mar 2019
Vault Festival


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