The Citizens Theatre of Glasgow has long been an iconic venue, renowned for delivering creative plays and providing participatory theatre projects for local communities. The Gorbals Vampire is the successful realisation of an ambitious ten month project which brought together over fifty amateur performers: local participants of all ages, all backgrounds and abilities (including one of the original “vampire-hunters”).
Inspired by real events, the play draws on local social history, specifically the time in September 1954 when hundreds of armed children from the Gorbals marched out to the Southern Necropolis, eager to chase the “Man with Iron Teeth”, allegedly the kidnapper of two of their schoolboy peers. The vampire’s existence proved to be mere children’s fantasy; American horror comics were blamed for creating the frenzy. How the rumour spread, we don’t know, but the myth of the Gorbals Vampire was born, resulting in an import ban on all “corrupting literature” by the British Government.
Writer Johnny McKnight has taken the liberty here of expanding on the urban myth by eschewing a classic chronological narration and balancing past and present sequences with a playful tone.
Inventive, colourful, energetic, the show flows with thrills, down-to-earth humour, and timely musical sequences. The set, including multimedia, successfully recreates the gothic atmosphere of the Necropolis and the nearby ironworks, adding a dramatic and fantastic tension to the whole. Bodies and props move on the stage with precision, displaying an impressive visual choreography (given the number of performers). All the actors evolve and interact dynamically, communicating their obvious enjoyment to the audience.
The direction is a real success, managing to meet the challenge of getting a large cast of non-professional people to perform like professionals. It also clearly demonstrates how community involvement in local history can reinforce its identity. The Gorbals Vampire is a playful creation delivering an uplifting renewal of an urban myth. The only disappointment is that it is limited to just three performances over two days.