Victorian Gothic

Thanks to the numerous adventures of Sherlock Holmes, we arguably don’t have the best impression of the Victorian Police Detective—especially when it comes to either their intelligence or deductive skills. This is clearly something which Steven Langley—the writer, performer and producer of Victorian Gothic—aims to correct, presenting us here with a good, honest copper with heart, understanding and decency. (Even if his initial cry of “Oh God, I’m knackered!” might suggest otherwise.)

Langley is centred, succinct and always emotionally in the moment

This is—or, at least, seems to be—a public lecture by the Metropolitan Police’s Inspector Albert Thorne, grounded on a decade’s experience policing the impoverished, crime-infested East End of London during the final decade of the 19th century. As writer, Langley clearly feels he has to face up to another of our cultural expectations, given that it’s genuinely difficult nowadays to not see those fog-laden Victorian London streets through the cracked lens of “Saucy Jack”. Detective Thorne is no conspiracy theorist, however; for him, the impoverished, crime-ridden East End is the real Jack the Ripper.

We learn much about the man in the course of the hour we spend together: the honest copper who works his way up the ranks, the family man who loves his wife (a Victoria to his Albert) and children, and feels responsibility for the police officers under his command—even annoying “Station Joker” William Smith. He’s presented, in no uncertain terms, as a reliable narrator, even when his dreams become somewhat fantastical, or the cruelty and violence of the East End verges into the obscene. “Skeletons in cupboards are not uncommon,” Thorne tells us. He appears to be an exception.

As a performer, Langley is centred, succinct and always emotionally in the moment—without milking those several moments that teeter on the brink of Dickensian sentimentality. As a writer, Langley also effectively contrasts the good man Thorne with the evils of an incestuous, self-protecting Establishment. Despite this, though, the conclusion of the play lacks sufficient emotional and narrative punch which, given the many delights and horrors of the preceding hour, is rather a shame.

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

Multiple Venues

Nests

★★★
Dundee Rep Theatre / Macrobert Arts Centre

The Yellow on the Broom

★★★
Underbelly, Bristo Square

Tom Neenan: It's Always Infinity

★★★★
Assembly George Square Studios

Police Cops in Space

★★★★★
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

Rik Carranza: Still a Fan

★★★★
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

Marmite

★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

(Being the deliberations of Inspector Albert Thorne, the Metropolitan Police Force, Scotland Yard, London, 1899). Turn-of-the-century London. This solo play delves into the murky underworld of the capital's depraved East End. A lively lecture, given by respected Police Inspector Albert Thorne, recalls his memories of working and living there. As an outsider, he takes his young family to start a new life in a "place full of wonder". But, it isn't long before he realises the horrors of London and the dispossessed souls on its streets... The play deals with migration, ambition and deliverance.