Dear Boss plays at the Vertigo Mystery Theatre until March 26
by Tara Merrin
Jack the Ripper was one of the world’s most horrific serial killers — horribly violent, sadistic and unrepentant.
DARREN KEAY & REBECCA NORTHAN in DEAR BOSS
So it is surprising a play based on the notorious serial killer, is bloody hilarious.
Although Eric Woolfe’s Dear Boss does offer a theory behind who killed a number of prostitutes in London in the late 1800s, it is so much more then a whodunit.
It’s the story of young American Charles Fort, played by Darren Keay, who sets out to solve the Ripper mystery.
Armed with a pocketful of news clippings, detailing strange events, such as fish falling from the sky and people spontaneously combusting, Fort enlists the help of the Elephant Man to help him find the killer. “He’s part elephant,” says Fort. “He’ll be good at remembering clues.”
It is this type of reasoning that leads the crime-fighting duo down several wrong paths in their investigation. They take pictures of the murder victim’s eyes with the belief that the face of the killer would be forever burned on their retinas, and concoct potions in hopes the murderer will be revealed in the fumes.
As they try to find the serial killer, they cross the paths of several suspects such as the royal physician and freemason Sir William Gull, spiritual adviser Helena Blavatsky, Canadian pharmacist Tumbletee, who keeps a collection of uteruses, and characters from Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland.
Dear Boss is also the story of Mary Kelly, a hooker with a heart of gold who would ultimately become Jack the Ripper’s final victim.
Played by Rebecca Northan, the character puts a much-needed face on the victims and brings the reality of the murders to the stage.
Woolfe’s use of real people together with puppets, dream sequences and premonitions, keeps this disturbing tale light, interesting and entertaining. However, it is almost impossible to take your eyes off the puppeteers and concentrate on the puppets.
Overall Dear Boss is a play with a split personality. As expected, it is dark and disturbing, but surprising it is also extremely humorous and witty.
Sun rating (4 out of 5 stars)