“Thrill Me” explores the narratives of two young men; lovers with a superiority complex and an additional penchant for crime that results in them murdering a child. Not a story that would instinctively make good musical material, but ‘Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story’ makes it work. This would never fly unless it was set in Chicago in the 20s. Can you imagine someone trying to write a musical about two men murdering a young boy in 2017 in Leith? Nonetheless this musical, based on a true story and told from the murderers’ perspectives, which premiered in 2003, is a brilliant new piece. This production for the Edinburgh Fringe is impressively presented and wonderfully performed.
There are only two people on stage throughout the 85 minute show: the dashing and incredibly seductive Richard Loeb, obsessed with Nietzche’s concept of supermen (of which he believes himself one) played by Ellis Dackombe. And our protagonist, played by Harry Downes, the less confident but equally complex Nathan Leopold whose uncertainty battles with his lust for Loeb and consequential desire to please him. Dackombe and Downes are phenomenal all round performers, holding the stage with gravitas and delivering songs with precision. With both having recently graduated from Arts Ed, these two are likely to be the up and coming stars of the West End.
Design-wise, the set is simple; a wooden framework with just two or three token objects (a typewriter, a metal bed, a telephone) which, combined with the dark lighting, works perfectly with the energy of the production. The pianist, who solely carries the musical piece, sits with ease just behind the stage; this creates a slightly repetitive nature of the songsbut this does not detract from the overall effect. A big band would hardly seem appropriate for this sullen piece.
Striking the perfect balance of tone, Thrill Me works as a sort of psychological exposé, giving a glimpse into the minds of criminals to demonstrate that there is rarely a crime committed for no reason. The plot is as intelligent as the young men seem to believe themselves to be, and the motives of the characters invoke an irresistible intrigue. If you are looking for something incredibly clever and more than a little dark, but also with some gorgeous music and all-round captivating performances, this is the place to go.