THEATRE / Clare Bayley on Theatre

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Trunks, opening at the Lyric Hammersmith tomorrow night, is appropriately titled. It was in a trunk that the body of Violette Kaye was discovered in 1934. It was also a trunk in which the truncated torso of an unidentified woman was found in the left luggage office at Brighton station in the same year (her legs were found in a suitcase at King's Cross). It was even a trunk which was used by Tony Mancini (Gregor Truter, right), sometime lover and pimp of Violette Kaye (Ruth Burton, right), for his end-of-the-pier show of 'sawing a lady in half. He was acquitted of her murder, but capitalised on his notoriety to publicise his show, and years later confessed his guilt to the News of the World. Stephen Plaice, a writer-in-residence at Lewes Prison, discovered the story and wrote a play of it, which Alison Edgar directed to considerable acclaim earlier this year. Trunks culminates with a recreation of the sawing-in-half trick. But isn't there a danger that the real facts of the murders become trivialised or, worse, glamourised by what is so neat a stage effect?

'These things actually happened,' says Edgar. 'The people to think about are the people who we don't know - the murderer who was never identified, and the two women.' Ruth Burton gives a mesmerising performance as Violette Kaye, the woman who won't leave Mancini alone even when she's dead. 'Vi isn't a tragic figure or a doormat, she's full of sharp humour, but tragic things happen to her,' says Edgar. And the audience gets the thrill of the circus within a thought-provoking context.

'Trunks' is opening at the Lyric, Hammersmith tomorrow night (081-741 8701)

(Photograph omitted)