Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff
“We serial killers are your sons, we are your husbands, we are everywhere. And there will be more of your children dead tomorrow.”
Ted Bundy raped and killed approximately thirty women between 1974 and 1978. He was notoriously charming and intelligent; he even represented himself in court. Judge Edward Cowart was not immune to Bundy’s charismatic personality. He told him, “You’re a bright young man. You would have made a good lawyer and I would have loved to have you practice in front of me, but you went another way, partner.”
Bundy is one of the most prolific serial killers in American history. Details about his life and crimes are in abundance. There are photos, videos and tape recordings. Thomas Harris used Bundy as inspiration for Buffalo Bill, one of the most famous fictionalised serial killers in his novel The Silence of the Lambs.
Bundy maintained his innocence until his last days on Death Row where he decided that he would begin offering golden nuggets of information relating to his murders as a bargaining tool, presumably in order to postpone his execution. Despite these confessions, Bundy was sent to the electric chair in 1989.
It is not difficult to source material relating to Ted Bundy; a simple search on YouTube reveals a wealth of videos of the killer’s confessions, documentaries about his life and his famous last interview in 1989 just a day before he was executed. The tapes reveal details of his grisly crimes from his own perspective and offer an insight into new factors never revealed before. Before the tapes, it was merely speculation. With them, police were able to slot unyielding pieces of the jigsaw into place. It is these tapes which inspired Greg Wohead to embark on the Ted Bundy Project.
It is, in every sense, a project; a fragmented piece which moves from background information to imitation of Bundy himself, from dressing up as first victim Georgann Hawkins to YouTube videos of young men reacting to violent videos. That’s what makes the production so fascinating. Just when you think you know what Wohead is trying to do, he changes tactic and throws you off guard, something which Bundy himself did to his victims. Wohead asks us to think about what we can never know, thoughts that went through Bundy’s mind, Georgann’s mind, situations that make us feel uncomfortable and unnerved. The piece seems to thrive on a sense of unpredictability.
Standing in front of us in his tennis whites dancing manically to Middle of the Road’s ‘Chirpee Chirpee Cheep Cheep’, Wohead uses the fascinating subject of Bundy or indeed, violence in general, to hold the audience’s attention as he moves without haste around the set, knowing how captivated his observers will be. Nobody takes their eyes off him for a second, uncertain of his next move, waiting anxiously for the next segment to be revealed. Wohead uses an old Sony Walkman to indicate when he becomes Bundy, regurgitating portions from the original confessions.
As the concept is so intriguing, it is unlikely that anybody will leave this production without fully intending to Google Ted Bundy immediately afterwards. In truth, the production only whets the appetite, merely scratching the surface. What is does do is it prompts audience members to want more, and in doing so, it reveals our morbid curiosity. It also highlights the wealth of information that is so easily accessed through our fingertips. Information that shouldn’t necessarily be as freely available to us as our curiosity on such subjects often knows no bounds. Wohead doesn’t give us that much information on Bundy and his life, he just opens up the floor for questions regarding humanity and our desire to know more about what disgusts us.
Whilst the final key change of ‘Chirppe Chirpee Cheep Cheep’ blasts from the record player and the lights fade to a complete blackout, the audience is on edge, questioning whether something unexpected is about to lunge at them from the darkness. This is a truly exciting evening which will leave audience members bemused, unnerved and itching to find out more. Perhaps this project doesn’t reveal a great amount about Ted Bundy, but it certainly reveals a great deal about ourselves.
(photo credit: Rod Farry)