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Edinburgh Fringe interview: Director Madelaine Moore on bloody unlikeable female characters in play Ladykiller

Director Madelaine Moore talks about Ladykiller, its charmingly murderous female lead, preparing for the Fringe and what she's looking forward to seeing. And writer Madeline Gould pops in to talk about creating murderous characters.

Madelaine MooreWhy is Ladykiller a must see at this year's Edinburgh Fringe?

Ladykiller really is unlike any character you have seen on stage before. She is unlikeable. She says and does all the things you might fantasise about doing when someone wrongs you, but wouldn't dare... mainly because they would mostly be illegal.

She's a character who toes the line between victim and perpetrator with such saucy alacrity.

She manages to charm the pants off you while covered in blood up to her elbows, and with a dead body at her feet.

At previews as well as loud guffaws we've had a woman mime a tiny fist pump while quietly hissing "YESSSS!" and another who would not (could not) look at Hannah (McClean who plays 'Her') throughout the show.

My favourite audience quote so far has been, "so dark it was like a beautiful black hole."

With that darkness, we wanted to push the boundaries, because for us it was really about answering the question, how much is too much? It's going to be very interesting to see how audiences answer that! 

Writer Madeline Gould is described as having a knowledge of serial killers, women in crime and all things generally gruesome which is 'second to none’ - dare we ask how come?

So Maddie, and me to a certain extent, both have a fascination with people who kill; serial killers in particular.

I used to have a collection of books about serial killers that lived next to my bed until I realised it might look a bit weird to anyone who made it in that far, so I got rid of them. But Maddie is a voracious reader, podcast fan and researcher so she's really gone in. 

Ever since she first sent me the 15-minute version of Ladykiller that was part of our show Ladylogue! back in 2105, I have been desperate to get the full version of the play on stage, and for her to explore the darkness of the character.

She really does present us with a character who completely smashes up this idea of the 'strong female'. Most characters that are called this are allowed to be flawed, but only to a certain extent.

They can't be completely fucked up, without either redemption or punishment for being 'bad'. Our Ladykiller is unapologetically wicked and, I kid you not, despite feeling pretty disgusted by her, you also feel strangely empowered by her.

Ladykiller The thelmasMadeline Gould adds: "It is so rare that we see the character of a female criminal drawn with as much complexity as their male counterparts and it is important to me that, in our battle for equality, we accept, explore and embrace the female capacity for violence, criminality and evil as much as we celebrate the positives.

"Ladykiller was an opportunity for me to explore my own frustration about the world around me and to push my reaction to the limit; from the smallest personal internal issues all the way up to a global perspective.

"The play is a big “what if?” and an exploration of how female criminality is and has historically been treated differently to male criminality."

Other than stocking up on stage blood, how are you preparing?

Producing is such a huge amount of work. What's been really nice is the creative team (apart from Maddie and Hannah) is the same all-female gang that made our recent show 'Coconut' (including Coconut's writer and The Thelmas co-director, Guleraana Mir).

We had previews of the show at Oldham Coliseum, back in May, and at Theatre N16 in June. So while there is a small amount of tweaking in terms of direction, it is all about producing, marketing and PR.

It is our fringe debut so it's a lot to cover, but I was on the Fringe Society's Emerging Producer's programme last year, and I feel pretty on top of what I need to do.

Of course, that doesn't stop me feeling simultaneously terrified about the whole thing, especially as I am wearing the Producer and the Director hat.

I shouldn't be though because the show is in great shape and Hannah is just absolutely knock-out. I mean, talk about an untapped talent - this woman should be working every day of the week as far as I'm concerned, so I really hope that Ladykiller does something for her profile. 

Of course, we have the ubiquitous crowdfunding campaign going, which you can give to here, should anyone be feeling flush.

It’s your Fringe debut, what’s the best bit of advice you’ve been given?

Honestly, we've had brilliant guidance from the team at The Pleasance, for all their producers, which has been completely invaluable, so there is a lot to choose from.

However, I also know personally what I need to watch out for, so my advice to myself is:

  1. Listen to your gut.
  2. Don't look sideways.
  3. It's only theatre, not oxygen.

Ladykiller by Madeline Gould from The Thelmas on Vimeo.


When you aren’t performing, what are you looking forward to seeing the most?

Well, now there's a big question... there are tons of shows I want to see. Really excited by Zoo Co's 'Sirens' which is creatively captioned and BSL inclusive (also at The Pleasance).

I am really interested in Power Play's immersive pop-up space and all that's going on there, and also Part of the Main's 'Squirrel Plays' has caught my eye. 

However, I am also really looking forward to having time to just pick out some random shows and try some new stuff too! 

Ladykiller is at Bunker One - The Pleasance Courtyard from Aug 1 to 27 at 1 pm. For more details and tickets head to The Pleasance website. 

Related posts:

Madelaine mentions The Thelmas play Coconut and you can read my review here (it was really good).

And if you liked this Fringe interview you might also like this one with Su Pollard who's starring in a play written for her.