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First Night: The Butcher Babes

It was all "a piece of cake", really. Or so says the bloody head of a young African man who's just been brutally murdered in front of his Irish girlfriend.

But how could anyone have let things get this bad? Why didn't the women just walk away instead of reaching for the nearest weapon? And can somebody please explain why Death is dancing around the living room to Michael Jackson's Thriller?

Indeed, The Butcher Babes isn't exactly your average, run-of-the-mill, night at the theatre. What's more, in taking one of the most gruesome murders in recent Irish history and placing the gory details on stage, it seems writer/director Bisi Adigun might have just presented us with the most intriguing production that this year's Fringe Festival has to offer -- but not without adding his own twists and turns, that is.

What we have is a loose and somewhat fictitious account based on the otherwise true story of convicted Dublin killers Linda and Charlotte Mulhall (aka the 'Scissor Sisters'). But instead of using real names, or indeed, white actresses, the murderous siblings ('Lisa' and 'Sharlene') are played by two black women wearing white paint on their faces. Sound strange? It isn't really, and to be honest, it's a clever move on Adigun's part; one that actually adds a whole new layer to proceedings.

The storyline -- as in, the events that might have led to the death of Kenyan immigrant Farah Swaleh Noor (or, in this case, 'Rafah') -- is quite inventive, too. Not to mention humorous. It involves a day spent drinking, cooking, arguing, popping pills, and returning home to the apartment where the, erm, leading man eventually meets his demise.


Sharlene and Lisa come across as a couple of giddy yet seemingly troubled characters in life -- the latter of which fully engages in a (Madonna-themed) sex act with her mother 'Geraldine's' partner.

But Rafah? Now there's another story altogether. In fact, one of the biggest downfalls of this play (other than its lengthy running time) lies within the director's inability to craft some sort of human side to the unfortunate victim at the centre of events. He's an aggressive drunk; a sleazy womaniser who cares only about himself, but aside from a brief phone call to his mother, we're never offered the chance to learn more.

It could also be said that Sharlene and Lisa's rapid transformation from giggling party girls to reckless killers is just a tad too quick to be believable, but, as the aforementioned head says, that's what happens when a night of drugs, sex and alcohol goes too far.

The witty manner in which the nods to the eventual outcome are spread keeps things ticking over, and, overall, The Butcher Babes is a brave yet oddly enjoyable tragicomedy that owes as much to its ingenious creator as the credible interaction between its excellent cast. A little unsettling? Maybe. But then so is its grisly source -- and no amount of tweaking will change that.

Star Rating: ***