Jack the Ripper

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Jack The Ripper

Charles Cryer Studio Theatre, Carshalton Tuesday, April 25, to Saturday, April 29  


JACK the Ripper is one of the most famous serial killers in history - ironically all the more notorious because, more than 100 years after the crimes were committed, we still do not know his identity.

It is generally accepted that he murdered five (though possibly as many as eight) prostitutes in the Whitechapel area of London 's East End between August and November 1888.

Speculation as to who the Ripper was veered dramatically from the Duke of Clarence to an insane Polish Jew and still the jury is out on who the butcher of the back-streets might have been.

One suspect was a character called Montague Druitt, who features as the villain of this musical as a sort of Dracula-caped cad masquerading as a do-gooder in between slitting the throats of the ladies of the night.

I loved Avalon Theatre Company's production, directed with such vigour by Sue Davids.

With only a modest amount of scenery but with great atmospheric lighting and well-picked costumes (lots of nicely blacked-out teeth too!) the scene was perfectly set.

The action is part commentary and part historical re-enactment of what might have happened, taking place in a boisterous music hall and in the impoverished area where the killer stalked his prey.

The music hall type score is very catchy and the company put all the numbers over with verve, especially the scary but bouncy Ripper's Going to Get You, Suspects Song and plaintive There Ain't Any Work Today.

Also irresistible was the Policemen's Chorus with the sergeant and his boys all rigged-out in women's clothes as decoys for Jack.

An added bonus was the magician's act (Dennis Clarke) whose piece de resistance was producing the dead body of the first victim Polly Ann Nicholls (Sarah Lazar) from within his magic box.

Leading lady, the last to get her throat cut, was ever-dependable Clare Gollop as a fiery Mary Kelly.

Heather Crosskey was the pathetic Annie, who ends up at the Ripper's mercy as she hasn't got fourpence to pay for her bed for the night.

Mo Lawton doubled effectively as Lizzie Stride, the hard-hearted landlady, who turns Annie away, and Queen Victoria.

David Bonner was the enigmatic toff Druitt, Denis Steer was the effervescent music hall chairman and also turned in a pastiche of the police chief Warren, who didn't even have finger-printing let alone DNA to help his force solve the Ripper crimes.

Simon Johnson was a strong-voiced thug Dan Mendoza and I liked the comic scenes with his gormless gang.

Chris Stanton impressed in his cameo as daft Dinky Nine-Eights.

And they couldn't have done it without the indefatigable efforts of the mini band - Kevin Joint on keyboards and Kevin Hardcastle on drums - so bravo to them too.

Diana Eccleston