Shreds – theatre review

Shreds ‘a Jack the Ripper musical’ is a unique piece of modern theatre that strips back theatre so the focus is purely on the actors and the emotions they aim to encircle. This was a show written by James Williams and Lesley Ross which was performed by the cast of the unknown theatre company.

This play is obviously written based on a true story of the infamous Jack the Ripper. It takes place in and around Whitechapel 1888. They use many real-life characters in this show to create a realistic and respective re-creation of life in this period. It appears that this festival was written perfectly for (and if not is perfect for) the Edinburgh fringe festival. This show was performed at the festival and it’s easy to see why. This show was only an hour-long so it was an enjoyable and easy watch but also it used a limited amount of props, stagging etc which forced the audience to focus on the singing and acting on the stage. This show used its budget carefully to create a focussed production that would be perfect for many theatre school productions. The clever production aspects and talent of the cast showed an extremely high level of professionalism and because of this, I can see this production becoming very successful and popular in the near future.

This piece of theatre is unique as it is unlike all the other Jack the Ripper musicals. Instead of having Jack be a re-occurring character in the show instead this play follows the lives of the women who were affected by Jack’s horrendous crimes. It aimed to reduce the stigma of the prostitutes of this period while empowering the same women which was an added layer to the already incredible show. Also, the creative team decide to not reveal the character or have ‘Jack the Ripper’ on stage at any point until the end which helped create even more drama and tension. Similar to how Shakespeare in his plays would reference war and character would go to war without it actually being stagged helped add to the tension and unknowing of the narrative which worked excellently in this play.

Most of the actors in the musical played multiple roles which are an incredibly difficult task but this talented cast performs this excellently and with ease. Kat Baker played the role of Gladys who was a very comical role but also push the narrative along. Kat delivered the comical parts of this character excellently but sang her musical parts beautifully. She clearly has a lot of talent and I believe she will go very far in the performing arts. One of the most vital roles was Ria who was taking part in a love affair with The young barrister which is the cause of the love between John and Rachel breaking down. She delivered this role excellently and was apart of my favourite scene in the entire show. During the number called shreds, Ria and another one of the girls had a fight scene that was choreographed and directed excellently. The scene was both a high point in drama as well as being one of the funniest scenes of the entire show.

Harri Herniman played one of the most vital male characters in this musical. Harri’s portrayal of the young barrister was excellent as he managed to blend the comical jokes with the serious, important mental conflict that the character is suffering. He encapsulated everything about the character (including facial reactions, comical quips and his indecisive nature) perfectly which was incredible to watch. John D’s (also played by Harri) finance in the play, called Rachel, was played by Zoe Martin. Zoe managed to show the naive nature of the character perfectly by showing the soft, in love side of the character that is almost broken because of her engagement being cut off.

There were some creative choices that I am not entirely a fan of. Firstly they included a gay storyline that didn’t have any relevance to the story.

The duke of Clarence and the rent boy (played by David James and Connor Sullivan respectively) were involved in a same-sex relationship that appeared to be there just to tick an inclusive box. Don’t get me wrong am very proud that same-sex relationship I’ve become a part of mainstream media and I think it’s important to empower and represent all types of people. But this mini storyline had no payoff nor did it affect the bigger overarching narrative. Also within the show, there were a lot of the fourth walls breaks with characters questioning why another character is singing etc. While at times this was very comical it did not make sense in my opinion. One of the catchiest songs in the entire show is about being in a musical but at no point was it revealed why the characters thought they were in a show or how etc. I think this ideology needed an explanation or some kind of end In the play (for example it could have been a play about a play where the characters are staging a play about Jack the Ripper or something similar.)

Overall this was an incredible musical that had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. It was drama-filled with incredible vocals and performers. I would rate this production 5 out of 5 stars and encourage anyone who is interested in new and unique theatre to catch this show if possible

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