The mystery of Jack The Ripper and the infamous Whitechapel murders has been immortalised in literature, film, song and drama – perhaps the only thing missing from that list was musical theatre. Enter, Unknown Theatre. After winning the Wales Final Festival of One Act Plays with Constellations, this young but supremely talented company provides Edinburgh with another winning production.
While purporting to be ‘a Jack the Ripper musical’, Shreds focuses instead on the working class women who found themselves at the mercy of this still-unknown killer. In today’s climate, it feels right that the story is told from their perspective, and the musical does a good job of rightly blaming patriarchal Britain for what happened.
Politics and satire aside, though, Shreds is just a lot of fun. The ensemble cast are terrific from start to finish, especially Michelle Kay and Zoe Martin as the two women at the centre of a misguided love triangle. What really stands out, and what writer Lesley Ross deserves kudos for, is how each character is so well-fleshed out regardless of the size of their role. Director James Williams and choreographer Grace Warner do a really good job of marshalling the action on the stage, while Sioned Evans is tremendous on the piano.
Of course you can’t compare Shreds to the high-budget musicals elsewhere in Edinburgh right now. But in putting on such a high quality production with so little resources, Unknown Theatre probably come closer to capturing the true spirit of the fringe than those other shows. And for that, they should be applauded.