Guy Retallack’s production of Dolginoff’s acclaimed chamber musical ‘Thrill Me’ – a retelling of the notorious, 1924 true story of Leopold and Loeb – returns to C venues after much deserved success with previous Fringe audiences. The production presents the murderous and suffocating relationship between the 19 year-old ‘thrill killers’ with clarity and astuteness. The pair are no longer simply haunting, archival shadows but human beings, fizzing with youth, repressed sexuality and the boldness of Nietzsche’s ‘Superman’ philosophies.
Despite being presented in a series of flashbacks there is never a lull in the plot, the pair keep each other and their audience on their toes. Leopold, played with tenderness and purpose by Harry Downes narrates his version of the case to his 1958 parole board.
The infamous murder of 14-year-old Bobby Frank is undoubtedly appalling, the event itself left horrifyingly to the audience’s imagination. The suspense and horror however, comes in the way Leopold becomes unconditionally bound by infatuation and written contract to his psychopathic lover Loeb. As the musical highlights, the key question surrounding the 1924 murder was, and remains; ‘why?’. Yet, Downes and Dackombe (Loeb) have complete command of their characters; both are fascinatingly believable allowing the extremes of humanity to be presented without ever descending into melodrama.
The set is imposing yet intimate and the low lighting heightens the intensity of their relationship. The music is beautifully sung, never trivialises the weight of the story and brings pace to the plot. This production is so well executed and as haunting and enigmatic and the case itself.
It was a relief to return to the bustling day-lit streets of Edinburgh having been taken so deep into the darkness of a manipulative and murderous relationship. It has, however, proved easy forget neither the sophistication of the production nor the complexity of case it examines.