Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes; both literary classics that have been reimagined and revised ad nauseam, particularly Holmes, who has recently undertaken (several) metamorphoses to a refreshed, marketable Gen-Y, portrayed by Robert Downey Jnr. and Benedict Cumberbatch. To even attempt an ever-notorious inter-textual mish-mash would be sheer lunacy, right? Cue stage right, or rather, Upstage Theatre … with the bravado of the wonderful John Martin in Jack the Ripper: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery Musical.
Written by Deidre Quinn, lyrics by Susan Oldknow, every iota of the production is an original creation. With a simple yet aesthetically pleasing set design (including a magnificent London street scene painted by Sue Monck over the course of 3 months) and authentic-to-the-era costumes by Violet Rowe (also the narrator of the evening) … the sum of the parts of this theatrical endeavour is something to be marvelled.
The tale follows the final days of the five prostitutes slain by the brutal and elusive Jack the Ripper. With timely pursuits by the repulsive and sly Pimp McSweeney (Paul McLean) and self-righteous, God-fearing Montague “Monty” Druit (Clint Mullins), we are witness to the motions of these down-on-their-luck women and their desperation to escape hardship and live in the world of the Toffs. Following the trail of mystery and murder are the witty and rambunctious duo Sherlock Holmes (John Martin) and Dr Watson (Paul Trueack). Without a doubt, the rapid-fire repartee between these two is the highlight of the production; their expertly crafted characterisation is authentic, entertaining, and natural (with some fab accents to top it off!). Martin needs a hearty pat on the back for his brisk wordplay, and Trueack’s presence and vocal timbre are trademarks of an expert actor.
The five wenches achieve what one would think impossible of a Lady of the Night; they are relatable, lovable, and empathetic. Oldknow as Cathy Eddowes and Quinn as Mary Kelly are flawless in their roles, with some of the most natural, fluidic and entertaining dialogue I have come across in a theatrical production. Cherylene O’Brien as Annie Chapman equips hilarious physical comedy. Debra Waller as Elizabeth Stride successfully balances the challenging disposition between morality and a descent into desperation (well done, Waller); and though Shelley Pontiac’s appearance as Polly Nichols was brief, she was yet another strong contender that demanded and retained attention for her skillful delivery of dialogue. Quinn wins the award for most authentic accent of the night … so authentic, that I am left to wonder if she is indeed Irish? The songs are frequent but do not smother the performance, wonderfully accompanied by Musical Director Tony Strutton.
A ridiculously fun experience from beginning to end, and an exemplary representation of a theatre company with some fairly impressive talent to showcase. Kudos, Upstage Threatre.
Reviewed by Nathan Giaccio
Venue: Arts Centre, Gawler Street, Port Noarlunga
Season: 19 October 2013
Duration: Approximately 2 hours