The Ripper Files, Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne
The gruesome tales of Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror in Whitechapel in 1888 has led to many dramatic interpretations on film, stage and television.
In fact there are two similar series on television about the mysterious serial killer at this very moment, although Whitechapel is a modern version.
Therefore, any new production about the still-unknown killer has to be exceptional to compete.
Unfortunately John Goodrum’s play The Ripper Files, which he has also directed and designed, is not exceptional. Advertised as a spine-tingling new whodunnit it is actually nothing of the sort. There is no set except black-out curtains and virtually no sound-effects except for the unfortunate background of fireworks coming from the Saffrons display, which nearly drowned out the dialogue on the first night.
What you have got is a fictional former Detective Inspector Charles Lestrange giving a lecture on the murders of Jack the Ripper 13 years after the crimes were committed. He is assisted by a former Detective Constable Samuel Edwards and his friend music hall artist Elsie Fordham who act out all the parts without a change of costume.
The acting is intentionally poor as they do not profess to be actors but the audience did not fully understand that as they came to see a spine chilling play. It is obviously a send-up as the Ripper’s second victim Annie Chapman, who was brutally murdered in the back yard of 27 Hanbury Street, simply walked out and lay down with no killer or knife in site.
The play does not seem to know what genre it fits into. It is not funny enough to be classed as a comedy or creepy enough to be a thriller. You have to concentrate really hard as there is so much dialogue and not much action and it is sad as they could have done so much more with it.
Acclaimed actor David Gilbrook gave a tour de force performance as Charles Lestrange and there was humour in his performance and a lot of words to learn.
Mark Homer, known to viewers as Tony Hills in EastEnders plays Samuel Edwards playing all the other parts and showed his prowess at accents while his good friend Elsie is played by Jennifer Biddall.
Perhaps I expected too much as I love thrillers but from the comments I heard from the row behind me I wasn’t the only one.
By Amanda Wilkins