Saturday, July 14, 2012

Jack the Ripper: The Musical - A Review

It’s 1888 and prostitutes are being murdered by the notorious Jack the Ripper. The girls have to work to survive even though Whitechapel ain’t the saf'st place 'round no more. The men, good honest dockhands, are broke, waiting for a boat to come in while the police are confounded as the body count rises.

Fertile ground for a musical? This is, in fact, more rollicking music hall style with a healthy dash of vaudeville thrown in and it works an absolute treat. The piece itself acknowledges this with characters congregating in a music hall for regular set-pieces where everything from the Queen to all manner of authority figures are mocked.

Queen Victoria (Kate O’Sullivan) may indeed rule the realm, but the Queen Bee amongst the working girls is Marie Kelly (a luminous Victoria Luxton) who is the centre of attention for admiring customers and those who seek to ‘save’ her alike. She is flirty, feisty, tough and Luxton plays her with great confidence and has the standout singing voice with several featured songs. Marie’s main foil is Montague Druitt (Jack McKenzie) who seeks her out with Bible and seemingly good intentions in hand.

The story is actually quite thin but this didn’t trouble me as it explores the colourful world of Victorian London and the characters that populate it. The bawdy fun takes on darker tones as one after the other the working girls fall (unseen) to the Ripper’s blade. Indeed, Jack is a bit of a McGuffin for the majority of the piece until things are tied up late in the second act.

There are excellent songs delivered in rousing style by the full company in many instances; as well as some lovely quiet moments, especially “Good-bye Day” as ‘Marie and the girls’ mourn the death of Polly (Tarryn Bullock) and ‘Step Across The River’ as Marie and Lizzie (Kate O’Sullivan again) have a touching duet as Marie tries to leave her working girl life behind.

‘Rippers Going To Get You’ that closes the First Act was also a highlight as the lads warn Annie (Georgia McGivern) about the dangers of being alone at night; the ‘Policeman’s Chorus’ is hilarious vaudeville by ‘The Constables’ (in unexpected attire); and there is a fabulous set-piece skit where a plan is hatched to write a letter to dob in a troublesome character as the killer.

This is a big cast (20 listed in the programme and I apologise for not naming them all here) and the venue was beautifully set up with cabaret seating and a spacious stage with excellent set design. The costuming was as colourful as the characters and the singing was of a generally high standard.

I found this a thoroughly entertaining romp of a musical delivered with great humour and verve. For only $20 a ticket it is an absolute steal given the quality on show. So I would strongly recommend you get down to the Koorliny Arts Centre in Kwinana and enter the world of Jack, Marie and the denizens of Whitechapel while you still can.

Direction and Musical Direction: Cat Baxter

Choreography: Allen Blachford

For more reviews go to Perth Theatre Reviews.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Script Reads & Feedback

It’s been an interesting couple of months – I have become quite popular with local writers asking me to read scripts and give feedback. Everything from features to television pilots to lots and lots of shorts. It’s flattering and I enjoy doing it but it’s also time consuming to do properly and I generally prefer to give feedback in person rather than written notes. Invariably those feedback sessions will last for 2-3 hours at a minimum.

When you factor in the reading time (each script at least twice); thinking about and analysing the screenplay and ordering my notes in a usable format; then the discussion and any follow up; it is a big chunk of time away from writing my own material.

I have occasionally been paid to do this sort of work but usually it is for the price of a coffee and a hearty thank you. Alas, my circumstances have changed and money has now become a concern where it hasn’t been for some time. It’s also a skill that has value… so where does that leave us?

The Australian Writers’ Guild rates for “freelance script assessment” are $51.40 an hour or not less than $411.20 per feature script, television pilot or theatre piece for a reader's report. I mention this to illustrate what the industry rate is for what presumably would be an experienced writer (full AWG member) to undertake this task. Now, I’m not suggesting this is the rate I would charge nor does it cover short film scripts.

What I am saying is that if you value my feedback and want me to read your script then make me an offer. I can’t afford to do it for gratis anymore.

Part of the struggle of being a creative person in Perth is deriving an income from your craft, whether that is as a writer, actor, director or any of the many other specialist roles in the film industry. My value is in my ability to write and to analyse script structure and visual stories.

With a professional transaction also comes guaranteed timelines whereas now, with my workload, I cannot make any commitment on turnaround times to get to the pile of scripts I have been sent.

I have already said I will charge to write monologues or show reel scenes as, again, this is the generation of a product with inherent value.

If you are interested and have a script you would like my feedback on then please contact me at to discuss further. If you have received feedback from me before and would be so kind as to offer a testimonial to the usefulness of my services, that would be greatly appreciated.

Happy writing!

Richard Hyde

ps The only exception I would add is where I choose to undertake a mentoring role which I am currently doing with a young writer. That's all about giving a little something back and hopefully helping the next generation tell good stories in their own distinctive voice.