Whenever we think of Jack the Ripper, immediately we think back to Whitechapel and his gruesome victims. Robert Inston's work in progress show Jack The Ripper: My Life as a Suspect explores the people who were seen as suspects at the time, including people such as George Chapman, with well researched historical fact, as well as monologues that indicated the type of people they were according to the media at the time. But what if the newspapers were wrong and they had a voice? This is where Inston's well portrayed characters and concept comes in.
he became each suspect with such ease and dexteriety
The show that I saw showed Inston performing in front of a tiny audience with none of the original costumes he normally uses due to the uncertainty with audience numbers on this occasion. Normally I would say that the costume makes a show like this with strong performances such as Inston's, however the version we saw equally worked without the costumes, as we saw him in his most neutral state as well as the subtle physical transitions as he became each suspect with such ease and dexteriety without going into melodramatic territory. It is easy to assume that anything to do with Jack the Ripper, thanks to previous films (including the more recent From Hell) that the Victorian period was all about big characters and big actions, but as shown today, it was the stillness of each transition as he chillingly became each character that made this particular show engaging and educational.
There were moments of gentle comedy where he channelled a very regal Queen Victoria to show how she viewed these horrible crimes whilst in mourning for her love Albert. He captured her mannerisms well by underplaying rather than overplaying, making her charming and engaging. But it was the sections explaining more about the characters in development, as well as the ongoing historical research that was interesting to listen to and left us asking more about his extensive knowledge about Jack the Ripper after the show. He mixed fact with humerous anecdotes from his experiences so far with living in Whitechapel itself and working as a tour guide for the Jack The Ripper Museum, which added a personalised touch to the journey of self discovery he was on and left us wanting more.
With the costumes in place and further things to be added, Jack the Ripper: My Life As A Suspect looks set for future success and even though right now it has the bare bones of a show, everything about it showcases Robert Inston's incredible talent and intellect. It would be interesting to follow this show on its journey as it grows - especially as the subject is not for the sensitive or faint-hearted. But with the right approach, which Inston seems to be on, this show looks set for further success.