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Brighton Fringe 2013

Jack the Ripper – Facts, No Fiction

Philip Hutchinson

Genre: Drama

Venue: Brighton Media Centre


Low Down

This is a direct, down the line talk with slides about the worst killer in history – actually not the worst killer, the worst maimer.


1888, the year of the Jack the Ripper murders. Now, if you are expecting a character pic, you’ll be disappointed. If you are expecting a play or some dark comedy, look elsewhere. This is a talk, with slides – an a little bit of humour froma "ripperologist".
This is documentary theatre, loaded with historical facts that come verbally thick and fast with projected slides to match.
Philip Hutchinson writes and performs. An attempt is made here to blow up our preconceptions and set our distorted picture of Ripper and his times to rights. Myths are happily exploded.
The piece opens with a break-neck speed monologue lecture that unloads a tankers’ worth of facts in a way thatlargley maintains interest. The monologue continues and this is clearly a subject our host, writer and performer knows a lot about. In fact he has spent years and years finding out about it. He wants to tell us and he does. The monologue lasts until the very end.
It’s an out of breath inducing talk that’s in need of a director. Not to make it more theatrical, but to put a bit of subtle control into the speaking. I wanted more from the TV documentary style delivery. It’s all interesting and the content engages. If you want the detailed lowdown on Jack the Ripper then this is for you but it sits somewhere uncomfortably between masterly solo theatre done so well by the likes if Guy Masterson and masterpiece monologue. 
It’s well delivered, fairly faultlessly articulated but it runs too well on fixed rails of a linear narrative structure, almost as if an essay is bring recited. Not enough for me I’m afraid but I’ve seen a lot worse.
Not all of the jokes find their mark though the rest of the humour blends well with the story. There’s almost no variation in pace I feel this is a piece that serves the research more than the research serves the piece.
Hutchinson does have an accessible style and the visuals add variety and support the story. The catalogue of victims creates the opportunity for episode stories. In those are plenty of horrific and gory details delivered in an offhand manner that adds to the chill. And the sheer amount of remembered words is a spectacle itself.
A lot of liberties have been taken over the decades – in books, in film, on stage. So this show feels like a slightly indignant reaction, a wish to tell it straight with no frills of artistic interference. And that’s what this is – a straight talking straight talk by a Ripperologist with a dash of comedy, a hint of theatre and plenty of gore. Enter into the spirit of that and what we have is a thoroughly engaging talk.
Judge it for what it is and it’s very good as a stage talk. Expect theatre or loads of dark comedy and you’ll be disappointed. I’ll judge it as the former and recommend you see it on that basis. It’s crammed with intriguing facts about the ripper, it isn’t for the faint-hearted (I turned away at some of the pictures) but it’s a fine example of how to deliver directly to an audience.