Writer: Robert Inston
If you’re looking for the blood, guts and gore story of Jack the Ripper, you’ve come to the wrong place. As a venue, Maggie’s Chamber may effortlessly transport you to the dark streets and tunnels of London in the late nineteenth century, but Jack the Ripper: My Life as a subject is not aiming for the lowest common denominator depiction of murder, scandal and revulsion.
Writer and performer Robert Inston has instead turned a light on some of the suspects and other public figures as they respond to the public concern or accusations against them. Queen Victoria is the first person we meet, and we then descend gradually down the social classes ending at the notorious downtrodden “leather apron”, whose name seemed to be irrelevant to people looking for a suspect who could confirm their prejudices and leave their trust in the upper classes intact.
Inston bookends the show with explanations of his reasons for choosing these characters and how they are developing further, and extending the show’s running time, the more times he plays them. He admits that he’s instinctively drawn to the more well-off flamboyant figures, but it’s as we reach the lower orders that the people and monologues get more compelling.
Before that, there’s a feeling that the characters are reporting the media perceptions of them and claiming them to be wrong, but not really giving an alternative version of themselves or commenting on what the accusations say about the accusers and societies perception of bohemians and outsiders.
It’s only when Inston goes deeper inside the character’s heads, moving beyond their public faces and words and into their internal thoughts and reality, that the show really replaces the salacious with the psychological, and introduces us to people and lives that are normally left out of retellings of the story. When it does, it takes us into a world that you wish could be explored further.
Reviewed on 19 August, running from 7 to 19 August 2021, additional show 23 August 2021 at (Counting House, Ballroom) Image: Contributed