This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub
Everyone shares a morbid fascination with murderers. It’s just a fact. And it’s a fact that Nigel Fairs exploits in The Brighton Killers, his 80-minute play about killers from the south coast, staged atmospherically in The Old Police Cells Museum. It’s part promenade production, part museum tour, and all sinister, spooky, bloodstained fun.
We are greeted by a brisk, white-coated Scottish woman (Michelle McKay), who leads the audience down into the dark, dank basement of Brighton Town Hall, where tealights and torches light up three somewhat dilapidated rooms, which used to be used by Sussex Police. Over the course of 70 minutes or so, with plenty of shuffling from room to room, we encounter five different murderers, who tell us their history in grisly, gruesome detail.
There is the anxious Percy Lefroy Mapleton (Edwin Flay), who, desperate for money to pay his debts, threw Isaac Frederick Gold off the London-Brighton train in 1881, only to find just eleven shillings in his purse. There is the eerie Louise Masset (Suzanne Procter), who suffocated her irksome young son in London in 1899, then fled to Brighton to enjoy a weekend with her lover. There is the sinister Christiana Edmunds (Kat-Anne Roger), aka The Chocolate Cream Killer, who became obsessed with a local married doctor and stopped at nothing to win him all for herself. And there is the downright maniacal Tony Mancini (writer Nigel Fairs), who stuffed his murdered wife into a trunk and kept her there for weeks.
Fairs has created a set of believably nasty characters from the scant details of real-life events, and penned a series of genuinely riveting monologues in which they describe their horrible deeds. He offers a modest comment on what drives people to commit murder and sneakily hints at the darkness within all of us in a witty and immersive conclusion, but in truth, this is little more than an indulgence of our morbid fascinations. It’s well-written, atmospheric and blackly comic, though, so what’s not to like?