Jack & I: The Jack the Ripper Musical

Sat 2nd – Mon 25th August 2014

reviews

Tania Nicole Clarke

at 23:03 on 16th Aug 2014

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‘Jack and I’ is a brand new musical written by Daniel Henry Kaes which succeeds in doing something new and exciting with a traditional cult tale. It stages the famous story of Jack the Ripper, the aloof serial killer who haunted the streets of London in the nineteenth century, and the musical toys with the idea that “everyone has a little Ripper inside of them”.

Kaes’ script is extremely playful and witty; it brings the notorious tale up to date and engages well with the audience, tickling us with clever humour from start to finish. The script is littered with modern day references and populated by bold, ludicrous characters that are shared between the talented cast of four. The ensemble dabbles in multirole play effortlessly throughout and the entire cast eventual metamorphose into the Ripper: a haunting transition which is represented by devilish white masks and serpent-like physicalisation.

The musical opens with an exuberant, flamboyant number involving the two male members of the cast (Chris Chalmers and Matt Lim) dressed in drag with pink wigs as they perform frantic, frisky choreography and set the tone for what is to come: absolute japery.

Jack and I is an incredibly amusing show with meta-theatrical undertones and bold, larger-than-life characters. The thing I loved most about this show was its ability to just have fun, it didn’t take itself too seriously, and it’s essentially because of this that the audience were able to truly relax and participate in the spectacle.

The acting itself isn’t the best to be experienced at the Fringe, but the show itself is altogether quite enjoyable. Sara Basso de Marc gives a very strong performance as the bad ass American seductress “gorgeous Georgia”; she enters with style on a scooter waving a cigarette coyly in her left hand and speaks in a twangy New York accent, she is a joy to watch on stage. Chris Chalmers is equally entertaining to watch, he plays Fredrick alongside Lizzie Camps who plays Emma, Fredrick’s wife; the pair are strong singers and sound magnificent together performing their duet, Camps in particular has a rich, soothing tone to her voice. Matt Lim is a humorous actor with delightful facial expressions and charm.

The performance is let down by the lack one of two things, although I can’t quite figure out which. Either the performance was lacking in energy or the cast lacked the confidence needed to lift the show to be a performance worthy of four stars. The overall pace of the production is strange, it is affected by this lack of spark and the transitions between scenes are not as smooth and seamless as they need to be to really thread together the narrative.

Instrumental clips are needed during silent scene changes to bind the musical together fully and give coherence. As it stands the show flits sharply between different times and locations without any bridging of the musical numbers. Some songs end so abruptly that they cause confusion among the audience members as to whether or not we should applaud. The choreography also needs more attention to detail, the movements are subtle, but performed with little tension held through the body, and an overall lack of commitment to the dancing is noticeable.

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Rob Collins

at 11:46 on 22nd Aug 2014

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It’s hard to know where to begin with ‘Jack And I’, the second in a trilogy of musical comedies by Daniel Henry Kaes. The plot, such as there is one, follows the exploits of Detective Inspector Abberline as he attempts to solve the mystery of Jack the Ripper and bring him to justice. However, Jack And I doesn’t really concern itself with plot. To say that nothing happens for the duration of the hour show is putting it very mildly. In reality, Jack the Ripper acts as a backdrop against which this company pokes fun at every cliché in the genres of musical theater and detective stories.

There is comedy in abundance here from satirical gags about the state of the media and pop culture, to moments of the absurd. Whilst much of it is genuinely funny, such as the star-trek style voiceovers by Abberline, (played fairly well by Chris Chalmers), other lines fall excruciatingly flat. The trouble is that whilst the show sets itself up as a farcical pastiche, (made obvious by quotes lifted from Airplane), too often it loses focus and tries to be a serious piece of musical theater again. I can’t help feeling that if they had committed to the farcical side of things it would have been a stronger show. In fact the revelation at the end, (maybe there’s a bit of ripper inside all of us), is so contrived that it threatens to become the very thing that the show is trying to mock.

That being said, the performances from the actors are generally very good. Sara Basso de Marc is brilliant as Georgia and Matt Lim and Lizzie Camps are equally impressive. In terms of music, the songs are also strong. It is a real shame that the tech breaks down halfway through this performance meaning that the second half of the show is unaccompanied - but the actors deal with it extremely well and the duet between Camps and Chalmers takes on an intimate, spine tingling quality in its stripped-back form. The choreography is a weak point though, and much too sloppy to have any real effect.

Whilst it is undeniably rough round the edges, Jack and I has a real charm to it. Never taking itself too seriously, there is an infectious energy to the production that sweeps the audience up in its arms. For all its faults, I left with a big grin on my face and that, after all, is what this sort of show is about.

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