Rip-roaring play takes on England’s infamous Jack the Ripper

By Zhang Yiqian Source:Global Times Published: 2013-3-18 19:38:01

A murderer who cuts open women and removes their organs is no laughing matter; however, a play about a silly detective trying to capture such murderer rocked the house.

Set in London in the late 1800s, Jack the Ripper, a three-man Chinese play directed by Yang Ting and playing now through March 24 at the Dongcheng district's Oriental Pioneer Theater, begins with a hilarious scene. An enormous stocking hangs from the ceiling. A man dressed up as a prostitute stands on the side of the street. He then runs into another decoy on the street, this one a woman dressed up as man, and mistakes her for the infamous murderer Jack the Ripper.

The cross-dressing faux prostitute turns out to be the play's protagonist, a police detective, played by Chen Minghao. Eager to prove himself to his boss, the aspirational cop wants to be more like his idol Sherlock Holmes and nab Jack. During the play, he finds out Holmes is a made-up character, does wildly immoral things under pressure from his boss and suffers his own tragic loss.

Even though it's a suspenseful play about murder, Jack the Ripper keeps audiences in rip-roaring laughter with exaggerated acting and accents tailored to a Beijing audience.

At the same time, the play is not all about being funny. The serious scenes are handled well, such as when the detective reads a letter informing him of tragic news. Chen's voice dips in sadness and disbelief.

However, the central idea the play presents isn't all that fresh. If it had been a straightforward story in which the police officer chases a murder and solves the case (even though the case of Jack the Ripper has never been solved), the play would've been satisfying. But that's not the route it takes. It tries to present a social commentary through the detective's revelation that his hero is fictional and showing that police will do even corrupt things to close a case. However, this type of structure leaves the audience without one clear conflict or idea.


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