In 1888, London’s East End was besieged by a series of ruthless murders.
The victims, all prostitutes, were carved up with gruesome anatomical dexterity. In the wake of these serial killings, a shadowy figure emerged: Jack the Ripper. This was the signature of (apparently) the self-confessed murderer who, through a letter now believed to be a fake, declared his handiwork to newspapers of the day. It sent ripples of fear through Victorian London.
Drawing on the notoriety that surrounds the legendary Jack the Ripper, Albert Belz’s play Yours Truly uses various theories about who the murderer actually was. It is a thoroughly researched, intelligent period work and its chief merit lies in the sheer lyricism of its language and the fact that, although the play is now 10 years old, it has not lost any of its modern appeal.
Set amidst the poverty of the slums in Spitalfields, Belz offers an insightful commentary on humanity at its most fearful. During the course of an engaging two hours, the audience gets an opportunity to witness the savage brutalisation of both the human body, but equally, the human mind.
With rich, full characters, particularly Mary Kelly (Ascia Maybury), Harvey the hopeful lover (Romy Hooper) and Walter Sickert (Blair Strang), the actors bring a compelling mixture of naivety and determination to their performances.
As a director, Belz is occasionally too literal in his execution and, as a result, the production is rendered a little clunky.
Maybury’s costume design is both thoughtful and evocative but other production values are unfortunately limited. Ben Van Lier’s backdrops contribute to a sparse but beautiful aesthetic, but once again, are just not quite enough to do justice to the text.
Yours Truly is a contemporary work that is attractive because of its superior literary flourishes – and despite the macabre narrative, it offers hope, humour and unexpected twists.