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Jack the Ripper was a show that surprised me – it was not a dark menacing show as the title would suggest, but rather a light-hearted Victorian drama, melodrama and music hall show, all three genres rolled into one.

The set was very good – the steps up to the rostra giving the stage a second dimension, which was used well by the cast.

Lighting suited the feel of the piece well, with good sound.  I didn’t have to struggle to hear words.

The band accompanied well, Margaret Johnson has a feel for the venue, which is echoed in the use of just two keyboards and drums – covering any nuances in the music from all angles, and providing a good accompaniment for the cast.  I particularly like the use of the drums in the ‘Boat’ number.

I particularly liked the final number in Act One – the cast created lots of interest.

The shift between music hall and the actual play were at time a little blurred, but once we got used to the changes we settled into the production, and it was both amusing and enjoyable.

Overall I felt the ladies, particularly those of dubious profession, were a little too refined, they needed to be coarser in their interpretation to contrast with the other members of the cast. They needed to lift their skirts and petticoats and show legs and bloomers to attract the men to their obvious charms!

The men managed to get good contrasts between the gentlemen and the commoners.

Alice Bridges took the lead as Marie Kelly, and did a good job, she sang very nicely, I just needed a bit more conviction in her portrayal, the anguish of her friend’s death and the ensuing problems could have been more marked.  But overall I liked what she did with the part.

Stevie Gibbs played the young Polly well, she got a real feeling of the sleazy whore, and also sang nicely.

Paul Kerswill always pulls out a good characterisation with the rather malicious character’s he excels in.  This time it was Dan Mendoza, the leader and nasty bit of work of a motley gang of layabouts played by Graham Gibbs, Aidan Dwyer and Michael Costabile, who created different characters thus making the gang a diverse group, which kept the interest.  

I thought Graham Gibbs as bluenose looked a little too clean compared with the other gang members, but otherwise their costumes echoed their parts, and we got a good feeling of the no-good characters of that time.

Alison Gibbs played the parts of Lizzie, the boarding house proprietor and Queen Victoria, and made both parts sufficiently different so that there was no mistaking who she was meant to be.  I particularly liked Queen Victoria, she was very prim and proper, and delivered some telling lines.

Richard Fraser created a very good character as the Chairman and also Charles Warren – again differing portrayals, and the delivery of the monologue about Polly was very well done.

I enjoyed Nicole Santelmann’s take on Annie Chapman – perhaps the dialogue was a little too careful at times, but musically she accomplished her part well.

Barny Shergold has a good voice for this type of production, it has a certain commanding timbre to it, which gave his Montague Druitt the necessary edge.  I perhaps needed a tad more conviction in his delivery at times, as I didn’t always feel the menace that was lurking but not always to the fore.

The quartet of whores were well-played by Justine McCreith, Louise Thonger,Gill Davidson and Jo Bigg, the empathy between the ladies of the night was apparent, but as pointed out previously, I just needed a bit more sleaziness from them, and perhaps a little more make up to denote their profession!

The men seemed to have more make up than the ladies, which was a little disconcerting!!

Peter Johnson as the obligatory policeman gave a bit of gravity to the situation, although I was a little perturbed that his trousers were not the same black as his jacket – in a nicely costumed production, this stood out.

I thought the costumes were good – they had some colour in them, but not enough to make it garish, they looked suitable for the times, and the wigs and hairpieces were good too.

One small point, speaking as someone who has difficulty with stairs – please try and avoid making people who have this trouble use stairs on stage – it can be difficult for the cast member and also the audience, I know I worry a lot if I see someone struggling a bit with stairs on stage!

I would have liked to have seen the ensemble putting a little more expression in their musical numbers, they looked a little serious at times, which made it seem a little lethargic, whereas I think the energy was mostly there, just not coming through in  their faces.

Choreographically the routines suited the music – however I would have liked to have seen less straight lines and more grouping, that way if people couldn’t cope with the requirements it would not have been as noticeable!

So all in all an enjoyable and amusing evening, with a good cast and nicely directed, both words and music.  

Many thanks to PBGS for their hospitality, and although it is a shame they have to perform out of Luton I think the Queen Mother is just the right venue for them, as it is more intimate, the stage is a good size, and the facilities are good.

Putteridge Bury Gilbert & Sullivan Society

JACK THE RIPPER” Review date: 11th October 2012

Queen Mother Theatre, Hitchin

Director:  Paula Fraser MD:  Margaret Johnson


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