King George Hall, 29 St Leonards Drive, Dunedin

29/03/2019 - 29/03/2019

Hanover Hall, 65 Hanover St, Dunedin

30/03/2019 - 30/03/2019

Dunedin Fringe 2019

Production Details

A one-man black operetta, a musical with social history, black comedy, and a murder investigation. 

Hear the stories of the women who were killed, and meet the men (the Jacks) who might have been the Ripper.  

Dr. Marigaux weaves music, storytelling, and grim facts together, accompanying himself on double bass with his blues-drenched vocals crying over pulsing bass beats.

Meet colourful characters such as Long Liz Stride and Marie Jeannette Kelly, who died at the Ripper’s hands, and Pearly Poll who spent the night drinking with another of the victims. We’ll start with some of the more fanciful suspects such as Lewis Carrol(!) and Queen Victoria’s grandson(!), before moving on to more likely Jacks. We’ll go to the inquests and hear the evidence, and we’ll wonder if the ripper was H.H. Holmes, the American serial killer (on holiday), or James Maybrick, the wealthy cotton dealer, or Kosminsky – a man described by the police as “a Polish Jew who had become insane due to many year’s indulgence in solitary vices.” At the end of the show, the Doctor will reveal who the Ripper (probably) really was.

Dr. Marigaux is best known as a jazz and blues sax player and singer, but he has been working on mastering the double bass (or “bull fiddle”), the most beautiful to look at, and most sonorous to hear of all the instruments. He says: “This show has been a vehicle to master this wonderful instrument. I started out thinking of writing a comedy-musical with a Ripper theme, but as I researched the murders, I became more interested in the stories of the women he killed. Their tales are usually neglected, but these women had powerful, and powerfully sad, stories that deserved to be told. So the show became as much a piece of social history, while still laced with black humour. And when I realised the implications of the Ripper’s true identity… well, that was chilling.” 

There is no age restriction, but you should be aware that the show includes graphic descriptions of prostitution and murder.

King George Hall, 29 St Leonards Drive, Dunedin
FRI 29 March 2019
$10.00 – $15.00
*Fees may apply  

Hanover Hall,65 Hanover St
SAT 30 March 2019
$10.00 – $15.00
*Fees may apply  

Theatre , Solo , Musical ,

1 hr 30 min

Compassion offsets appalling details

Review by Kimberley Buchan 30th Mar 2019

Jacks the Ripper is billed as a one man black operetta. In performance it appears more as a lecture interspersed with bluesy music. The soft-voiced Phil Davison has done a great deal of research on who the possible identities of Jack the Ripper are and also into the lives of the five women he brutally murdered. He draws from court testimony, letters, conversations with police officers and the many contradictory eye witness accounts and subsequent analyses. Many of these primary sources are stretched into songs. A list of possessions of Kate Conway gets its very own song.

In his stage persona of Dr Marigaux, his two hour performance runs us through a bewildering array of candidates for the ultimate Victorian serial killer. He begins with Lewis Carroll, touches on Queen Victoria’s grandson and H H Holmes of the Murder Hotel fame. Many more options are dismissed as the show progresses and at the very end Dr Marigaux reveals his pick of who the killer really was.

The show turns its focus toward the women who were attacked. Davison’s Dr Marigaux shows a great deal of compassion toward them and becomes almost tender as he reveals personal details about their lives. Each gets a song and a tally is kept on the chalkboard of the songs and times of death. The chalkboard is balanced by a large map of East London marking the locations of the murders on the other side of the stage.

Davison is clearly fascinated by his subject matter and gains disgusted reactions from the audience when he gets to the appalling details of the murders. In spite of his extremely dramatic subject matter that he relates to us in his lecture it is when he sings that his Dr Marigaux truly comes alive. As it is hard to get a huge amount of variation when you are accompanying yourself with a double bass, Davison could transfer some of his range of vocal techniques he uses in his songs into the informative sections of his show to help build the tension and the climax.

I can’t help but think that Jacks the Ripper would fit better into a more intimate performance venue. A softly lit performance space with the audience cuddled up around Dr Marigaux would suit his informal performance style better than the quaint but harshly lit King George Hall.

Davison reveals his own mortality to the unobservant in the audience in an epilogue. His connection to the women who were attacked is evident throughout the show. Although the content of the show is dark, Dr Marigaux valiantly attempts to end the show on a positive note to assure us of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity.  

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