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
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.