I WAS sitting on a train to Brighton when Glenn Chandler, the creator of Taggart, produced a large leather document case from his bag and handed it to me.
Inside, I found a selection of letters, all hand-written by Moors Murderer Ian Brady.
They were research for Glenn’s play Killers, which I had been invited to direct - we were on our way to scout venues ahead of the production opening at the 2013 Brighton Fringe.
Holding those crisp foolscap pages, reading that tight, spidery hand, knowing who had scribed these words from his cell in a high security hospital, I was chilled. The evil in every word palpable.
What made the situation all the more sinister was the content of the missives, addressed to a lad Brady had obviously been corresponding with for some time.
He was giving him advice: ‘Don’t go the same way as me, stick in at your apprenticeship, become a mechanic,’ he wrote.
I remembering thinking at the time; Who allows their teenage son to write to such a man? Surely they saw the Ashworth High Security Hospital stationary dropping through the letter box and wondered.
Killers is perhaps the most disturbing play I have directed. Based on the letters three serial killers (Brady, Dennis Nilsen and Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe) had sent to their ‘fans’, the piece explored society’s fascination with all three and their horrific deeds. There’s a reason they make front pages. People want to read about them. They sell papers. Worrying.
We also posed the question, are they born monsters or do we as a society create our own monsters? I’m not sure we ever came to a conclusive decision about that.
When the play premiered, the sheer manipulative nature of all three was brought starkly into focus when Nilsen attempted to engage in correspondence with Glenn and the production. His ego no doubt piqued.
Audiences were strange too. We had expected one or two ‘weirdos’... that was an under-estimation. The ‘fans’ who appeared, desperate to meet the actor playing their ‘hero’ were sincerely scary people.
How empty must a life be to be driven to such correspondence?
Killers is the only production I’ve ever worked on where I had to advise the cast to leave immediately after the performance and not meet audience members.
Naturally it was a controversial piece. There were those who felt it glorified the subjects. They were wrong. It didn’t.
Instead it showed them for exactly what they were, highlighting the evilness of their deeds and their cold-blooded ruthless, lust for attention - in Brady’s case attempting to normalise his situation.
As Glenn recalled the other day, at the time we discussed who would go first. Now we know.
As the hash tag #RIH replaced #RIP on Twitter the other day it seems certain that, if such a place exists, hell is exactly where Brady will now be rotting.