Review: Thrill Me – The Leopold & Loeb Story, Hope Theatre

A twisted but thrilling true crime two-hander – Thrill Me – The Leopold & Loeb Story is a must-see at the Hope Theatre

“If this keeps going on I’ll go crazy
I’m aroused, you’re conveniently lazy”

How far to go in the name of erotic obsession? You’d hesitate to call Thrill Me – The Leopold & Loeb Story a love story, what happens here is far too dark and twisted for that, but what you do get is a horribly fascinating study of twisting power dynamics and blurred moralities. And with sex thrown into the equation, it becomes a heady combination, enough to drive you to…well, you’ll see.

Stephen Dolginoff’s one-act musical is based on the true story of Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold but rather than glorifying their crimes, including murder, it focuses on the extraordinary relationship between these two men in 1920s Chicago. Lovers, abusers, conspirators, victims, they slip and slide from pillar to post as we try to make sense of who they are and what they do to each other.
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Review: Flames, Waterloo East

“You’ll live your life in constant fear
We’ll have to make him disappear”

Cripes. Flames is described as a “suspense-filled musical thriller” but whether intentional or not, it proved to be one of the funniest things I’ve seen this year. Its campy, schlocky vibes are like an episode of Sunset Beach happening before your very eyes and yet played with such seriousness, I’m really not sure that that is what they were aiming for at all. Stephen Dolginoff – whose Thrill Me has recently been revived for a UK tour – once again takes on sole duty for book, music and lyrics to explore murderous mystery but I’m not sure these flames have ignited in the way he might have intended, here at the Waterloo East Theatre.

Stockbroker Edmond died in disgrace a year ago in a fire and fiancée Meredith and best friend Eric are paying their respects at his graveside but they’re haunted by several questions. Did he really commit a terrible crime before dying? If so, where’s the money? Is it ok for Eric to have the hots for his dead best friend’s girl? Why does she take her coat off if it’s a stormy night? And how are those candles meant to be staying alight? Does Eric need his eyes testing? In fact, do they all need their eyes testing – no-one seems to see anyone coming in this cemetery. And just how sharp is that umbrella? Continue reading “Review: Flames, Waterloo East”

Review: Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story, Tristan Bates

“Do you know what would thrill me?”

People often assume that I’ve been to every theatre in London, more than once, and though it may seem like it, there are just so many and new ones opening all the time that not even I can make this boast, yet. The Tristan Bates Theatre, tucked away in a Covent Garden back street near Fopp, is one place I haven’t been before and so my trip to see American musical Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story meant I could knock more off the list. It is based on the 1920s true story of wealthy Chicago teenagers Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb and the twisted relationship that existed between them as they searched for the ultimate thrill. Their raft of misdemeanours took a darker turn though as the crimes got more serious in order to make the thrills bigger, culminating in the ‘perfect crime’ – the murder of a young boy in 1924. The story is told in a series of flashbacks as we start in 1958 at the parole board hearing of Leopold.

A two-hander, it relies totally on the quality of its performers and director Guy Retellack has hit gold with his perfectly cast pair here: George Maguire and Jye Frasca who both bring highly nuanced performances to try and throw some light onto this complex and psychologically messy relationship. Maguire’s Loeb is the fan of Nietzsche, utterly convinced he’s above the law and seemingly the one driving the pair’s actions whereas Frasca’s Leopold is more the willing accomplice, desperate and willing to do anything to win the attention and affection of his friend and lover. Both sound outstandingly good in the intimate space and convinced as a couple, albeit one with serious issues, and as the beginnings of an explanation of the psychology that could lead to such crimes being committed. Frasca also did extremely well at playing the older Leopold, using subtle inflections in his voice to suggest the effect of more than 30 years in prison. Continue reading “Review: Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story, Tristan Bates”