Festival play based on murderous penpals unveiled

Gareth Morrison as Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, Arron Usher as Dennis Nilsen and Edward Cory as Ian Brady. Picture: Bill Mackellar
Gareth Morrison as Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, Arron Usher as Dennis Nilsen and Edward Cory as Ian Brady. Picture: Bill Mackellar
0
Have your say

A CHILLING new play based on the actual letters of caged mass killers will explore why anyone would want to become pen pals with a maniac.

The modern phenomenon of people writing to serial murderers is placed under the microscope in a gritty new Festival stage drama actors working on the project have described as one of the most “challenging ever”.

Killers – written by Taggart creator Glenn Chandler – is based on letters sent from prison by Moors Murderer Ian Brady, Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe and Dennis Nilsen, who flushed his victims down the toilet. The acclaimed writer said: “These letters show how these men were able to continue to manipulate people even when they were under lock and key. Sutcliffe is a prime example of this – he would write letters using very lovey-dovey language, offering ‘hugs’ for his ‘sweet potato’. This is a man with a documented violent hatred of women.”

As well as examining why someone would chose to correspond with a killer, the play also touches on the apparent normality of these men – one of the things which allowed them to get away with their crimes for so long.

Glenn – who does not wish to divulge the identities of the pen pals who have handed their disturbing correspondence to him – continued: “That was one of the things I found most surprising – the mundane nature of some of the discussions, and the jaw-dropping double standards. For example, there is one letter where Ian Brady is replying to his schoolboy pen pal about which films he enjoys – apparently Bambi makes him, a man who murdered children, cry.”

Arron Usher, 35, of Meadowbank, who will be playing Nilsen, said the role would be the most challenging of his career, explaining: “There’s no way you or I could ever really understand what goes on in the mind of someone like that, nor would we want to. But I’ve been doing as much research as I can to prepare as much as possible – it’s made for disturbing, stomach-churning reading.”

Edward Cory, 49, of Newhaven, who plays Brady, added: “It’s amazing these men were being asked for and giving out advice on how people should live their lives. What kind of person would turn to someone like that for guidance?”

The letters sent to Sutcliffe, who murdered 13 women, are perhaps among the most disturbing. Gareth Morrison, 31, of Leith, who will play Sutcliffe, admitted he was gobsmacked by the contents of the letters.

He said: “In one he tells the woman he is writing to that although he still hears the voices in his head telling him to kill, she has nothing to fear because he knows not to act on them any more. Who would find a statement like that reassuring?”

n Tickets for Killers, on at The Assembly Rooms, will go on sale at The Stand Comedy Club box office from April 8.

jen.lavery@jpress.co.uk