Ladykiller (4 stars)

This article is from 2018


credit: The Other Richard

Sinking into the mind of a murderer

Madeline Gould's self-consciously nasty script dives into the mind of a woman who not only kills, but enjoys it. Part rationalisation of a murder (with the dead body still fresh), part exploration of the murderous mentality, Hannah McClean's energetic performance almost makes her vicious chambermaid charming and sympathetic, despite being covered in blood and more than happy to own her impulses.

Gould's interests are not merely in the psychology of the murderer: the most bracing moments see her protagonist mock the patriarchal stereotypes of femininity that might allow her to escape punishment. Occasionally slipping into a lecture on the history of the serial killer, the script returns to McClean's unnamed character's motivations and reflects on how the construction of femininity permits outrageous behaviour, as long as it is suitably framed.

Fragments of other justifications emerge, only to be subsumed beneath the murderer's egotism and pleasure in the kill: a revolutionary impulse for change becomes another excuse for violence, and Madeleine Moore's direction keeps the pace rapid and the focus on a character who repels and attracts in equal measure. The notion of feminist equality is presented, but in its darker aspects: a roll-call of types of serial killer wryly notes that the literature can only understand women who kill 'for gain', and the protagonist celebrates their personal obsession as resistance against the everyday abuse that inspired #metoo. Without ever becoming a condemnation, it pokes at the optimism of feminist beliefs in equality and the innate compassion of women in a bracing and difficult to resolve monologue of fierce intensity.

Pleasance Courtyard, until 27 Aug (not 13 &14), 1pm, £9–£11 (£8–£10).


  • 4 stars

Darkly comedic morality tale about zero-hour contracts, the gig economy and victimhood.