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Jack the Ripper’s London, London Bridge

Mike Carter and Lizzie Quinn for Crow Theatre
Directed by Natasha Campbell

Pros: Brilliant and truly unique immersive theatre in a superb venue.

Cons: None whatsoever with the show, but had some problems finding where ‘the meeting point’ was.

Our Verdict: A real gem and a fantastic surprise; the best immersive theatre I’ve experienced. Tremendous stuff!

Courtesy of Crow Theatre

It’s been nearly 3 months since we last awarded our highest accolade to a production; perhaps we’re too picky, but our opinion has always been that a 5 star show has to be ground-breaking or truly memorable. The honest reality is that the vast majority of the shows we see are fantastically good, but these particularly special ones are, by definition, few and far between. One thing I certainly did not expect is that this bizarre production from South London’s Crow Theatre would deliver such a superb afternoon of entertainment! It was something a bit different, it was huge fun, it was very clever and it was delivered with style and flair. In short, despite nursing an outrageous post-Olympic Ceremony hangover, I thought it was brilliant.

Part of my delight at Crow Theatre’s immersive production of Jack the Ripper’s London stemmed from the fact that I was constantly kept guessing as to what it was all about. The publicity looks suspiciously like something from one of those god-awful Jack the Ripper walking tours, and when I finally found the meeting point my heart sunk – actors dressed up in Victorian get-up with a very articulate lady holding up a sign, like any normal walking tour. I remained suspicious for the first 10 minutes as we followed our ‘tour-guide’ on a short walk, with her pointing out the odd building here and there and holding up a brightly coloured golfing umbrella to make sure we could still see her. However, everything changed moments later when we stepped off the street into an old tunnel underneath a railway bridge – it was literally like stepping into another world.

Suddenly I found myself in a (rather magnificent) network of dark, dank and dingy tunnels which had been completely transformed into a Victorian Whitechapel Street, complete with a pub at the far end. Any preconceptions that I had that this would be a ‘budget’ affair went out the window – this was the real deal. Within seconds I was being solicited by prostitutes, offered the chance to play market stall games, and one man damn near persuaded me to buy a hat (that I looked completely ridiculous in). Take some spare change; if you want to play darts then you’re going to need it! I was then handed a flyer by an earnest looking chap: a meeting of the Vigilance Committee in the pub. In we piled to find a marvellously realistic local with more atmosphere than the majority of actual pubs! Pianos playing, singing, bar fights, the works. I was completely sold, part of the story, part of the action; this was truly immersive theatre. One piece of advice for the adults: go in the evening, because the bar is then actually licensed (another stroke of genius).

That’s when things began to get a bit nerve racking. Jack the Ripper strikes again as we sit merrily in the pub and all hell breaks loose. I don’t want to ruin the surprises, but suffice it to say even my nerves of steel were slightly shaky towards the end. What I will say is that I have never been to immersive theatre quite like this, which is why we’ve given it such high-praise. It’s difficult to get me to suspend my disbelief entirely, but Crow Theatre managed it superbly.

Any real negatives? A slightly abrupt ending perhaps, and as I’ve mentioned I think it should be made clearer in advance of the show where the meeting point is (which I now notice has now been remedied on their website anyway!). Other than that I have no complaints. This was unique, imaginative and excellent entertainment in a brilliantly original space. Take a group of friends, have a laugh and a beer and pretend you were around during Jack the Ripper’s day. You won’t regret it.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments in the section below!

Jack the Ripper’s London runs in the London Bridge area (meeting at the Stone Spike) until 5th August 2012.
Book online at http://www.seetickets.com/Tour/JACK-THE-RIPPERS-LONDON

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