JACK: A RIPPER’S TALE
Studio Theatre, Derby, Thursday 26th July 2012
Fascination with Britain’s most notorious serial killer endures because of the mystery that surrounds him. Jack the Ripper was never identified, let alone caught, and this is what keeps him alive in the popular imagination.
Different Device Theatre Company, comprised of graduates of the University of Derby’s drama course, add an extra layer of mystery to their production exploring the legend: none of the available publicity material reveals the names of those responsible. Actors, director, designer, writer – all are unknown to me. This is a pity. I would like to name and praise the individuals concerned.
A three-hander, the play recreates in one act the brutal murders – each one is staged differently. In between we get a kind of black comedy as the two girls and one boy represent foul-mouthed cackling prostitutes (or “bangtails”) around whom the web of fear is gradually tightening. We meet “Mary” and “Annie” and “Liz” – this latter is played by the lad who also acts as chirpy narrator-figure “Bill”. All three of them represent other characters and build up an impression of life on the streets through raucous voices and filthy talk. I particularly liked “Mary” when she portrayed a rough-as-fuck landlady spurning a bangtail who hadn’t the thruppence to pay her doss. No, I’m not sure what that means.
The simple set – three portable archways – is put to effective use to redefine the space. Simple theatrical devices are brought into play: dumb show, shadow play, masks… the company’s bag of tricks comprises of these tried and tested techniques, hardly cutting edge (hah!) but proving that they still work if handled with flair.
A very enjoyable hour, like a Victorian Berkoff in tone, but it could perhaps have done with a bit more blood.