JACK THE RIPPER
Blackmore Players at the Village Hall
We were promised fun, terror, song and dance, and Blackmore Players certainly delivered in this clever blend of music hall, melodrama and serial murder.
It all happens in the mean streets of Whitechapel and in the Steam Packet Public House, where Simon Haskell's genial Chairman tried to keep order amongst the dockers, pimps and whores who make up the clientèle and the chorus.
This chorus was on stage for most of the action – just as well, since getting them all on and off stage is a long process which inevitably slows the action. Pace generally was a problem, with cues picked up slowly, dragging dialogue and sagging gaps of silence between scenes.
But the show, directed by Steve Drinkall with Dave Smith the producer, had many ingenious touches. I liked the magic lantern projections for the shadow of the Ripper, and the instant switch from reality to pub stage, simply done with lighting and acting style.
Some fine performances amongst the large cast. Particularly pleasing to see a number of talented younger actors, bringing freshness and verve to the proceedings as well as boding well for the future of this enterprising village company.
The four lads had some nice comedy moments, and got to impersonate some of the usual suspects in Act Two. James Hughes especially impressive as Dan Mendoza – his Sing Sing duet the first of many telling contributions. Lisa Rawlings was excellent as the tragic Marie, one of several nicely characterized sisters of the night. “Step Across The River” the most successful of the serious songs. Good vocal work from Anna Green's Polly, and from Sandra Trott in the unlikely double of doss-house proprietrix and Empress of India.
Montague Druitt, aka Toynbee, was played with some style and exemplary clarity by Sam Haskell. An enigmatic figure, he's the villain of the melodrama, as well as Marvel the Mystic.
The question mark ending, with the final victim led off to the quiet canal path, and one last Ripper shadow high on the wall, was genuinely chilling.
The music – a prepared piano sound from the pit keys-and-drums duet – was in the capable hands of Shirley Parrott. And there were many lovely musical moments – the torch songs, the knees-ups, the a capella opening to the trio ...
Nice to see this rather neglected little musical again – chronologically and stylistically somewhere between Oliver! and Sweeney Todd – the history, the jollity, the gore and the pathos all enthusiastically tackled by the Blackmore Players.
production photograph: Richard Smith