Amongst the frivolity of Fringe hides the darker side of the night. Here lie the poverty-stricken victims of Jack the Ripper.
Local troupe, Upstage Theatre, are attempting to unravel the identity of London’s most famous killer and expose the lives and plight of his victims’ hardened existence in the ghettos.
“The play uses the familiar characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson to entice the audience into this macabre world of poverty and prostitution in Whitechapel, London,” says director John Martin, who also takes on the role of Holmes.
For Martin, the play has been brewing since his youth when he worked down Petticoat Lane Market, but it was his wife, Deirdre Quinn, who ultimately put pen to paper.
After extensively researching the era and events, Quinn insists her play is more about the women than the men, centering the story on five women murdered during the autumn of 1888.
“The period lends itself to both drama and comedy; beauty and banality,” she explains. “One the one hand we’ve got the colour and fun of the 1880s Music Hall, and on the other is the grimey tragedy of the girls’ final days.”
The Music Hall component comes to life with original music, penned by musical director, Tony Strutton, a former composer for the ABC, with lyrics by choreographer and local musician, Susan Oldknow.
This adults-only tale is a far cry from Upstage Theatre’s light-hearted Fringe offerings of the past, including the 1920s comedy Speakeasy: An Extrava-gangster, and two highly successful Kaos Kabaret revues, however it’s not their first foray into adult drama. Since their humble beginnings as a dinner theatre troupe, 17 years ago, Upstage Theatre has never shied away from exploring new territory, from award-winning children’s pantomimes to supernatural horrors like Dracula and other period pieces, like the story of Ned Kelly.
Their unique brand of cheeky comedy promises to balance the drama and intrigue of Jack the Ripper with plenty of comic relief, but Quinn insists that your children should remain home in bed.
“This one is strictly for adults with an imagination for the macabre,” she warns. “Despite Vi Rowe’s colourful costumes and the uplifting music to lighten the plot, it’s ultimately a murder mystery told from the perspective of the victims.”
Jack the Ripper: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery-Musical
Venue: Guthries – Eliza Hall, 126 Prospect Road, Prospect
Season: 23 February, 2 & 9 March at 8pm
Duration: 2 hours
Tickets: All tickets $25.50
Bookings: FringeTix, and at the door if not sold out