Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Substance & Shadow Theatre Company "Walking with God" St Nicholas Priory Tue-Thur 19-21 & Wed-Fri 27-29 November 2019

Midge Mullin
is Donald Swanson
"Walking with God"

(Photography: Matt Austin)

Queen Victoria:
Ronnie Kerswell-O'Hara
The ancient Benedictine Priory of St Nicholas in Exeter was built shortly after the Norman Conquest and has been the scene of nearly a thousand years of history. This November, for a few nights only, there is a chance to have a chilling encounter with some more recent events. In 1888, a three year spate of violent murders began in the Whitechapel district of London. In the atmospheric confines of the Priory, Substance and Shadow Theatre Company recreate the story of those harrowing times.

Donald Swanson: Midge Mullin
Voice of Jack the Ripper:
Philip Kingslan John
Midge Mullin is Inspector Donald Swanson, the real life detective whose unswerving devotion to Queen Victoria (portrayed briefly and imperiously by Ronnie Kerswell-O'Hara) drove him to pursue the murderer with unrelenting determination. Midge is magnificent in his performance as the single-minded hunter - but his masonic lapel pin hints at conflicting interests at work in the case. The actual words of the killer (or was it a contemporary hoaxer?) are voiced over by the wonderful Philip Kingslan John as Swanson reads the now infamous letter from 'Jack the Ripper'.

Mary Jane Kelly:
Lola Pawlikowska
Lola Pawlikowska is Mary Jane Kelly, who was the fifth of the first five murder victims ('the canonical five'), still considered to have been killed by the same person. Her descriptions of life in Whitechapel, and the destitution and crime which were already commonplace there, starkly set the scene for the carnage that follows. Lola's playfulness is mixed with the ground-glass of dark experiences. She perfectly depicts the gallows humour of terrified Londoners living in daily fear of death.

Inspector Swanson (Midge Mullin)
tracks down his man
John Smith Sanders (Al Wadlan)
There was a suspicion at the time that the murders had been committed by a London surgeon - the mutilation of the bodies being likened to an autopsy. Al Wadlan, as the surgeon John William Smith Sanders, is very much under suspicion.Within a month of his appointment in 1888, Swanson had identified three medical undergraduates who had been declared insane. Sanders was the hardest to trace - he had been transferred from Holloway to Exeter. In a brilliant plot twist his story is changed. The Sanders in this story makes his own way to Exeter where, for reasons which are at first unclear, he is committed to Digby Hospital, and the care of Rosie Mullin.

Reviewing news of the case
Michael Maybrick:
Richard Pulman
Our narrator, and confidant of  Sanders, is the very dignified Michael Maybrick, played by Richard Pulman. Maybrick was a popular composer and singer in the 1880s, who used the pseudonym Stephen Adams. As Maybrick, Richard guides us unerringly through the machinations of the plot using prose and song - and some magic lantern slides provided by his assistant Cecil (played by Alex White - who is also in charge of the lighting back-stage). Maybrick also gives some insight into Sanders background - as fellow Cambridge alumni they are familiar with each other's careers. Keep an eye on Maybrick though. He has more than a passing interest in Sanders, and he also sports a masonic lapel badge - suggesting a more sinister interest in the case.

Enhanced Interrogation
Inspector Swanson: Midge Mullin
John Smith Sanders: Al Wadlan
This dramatisation not only evokes the terror of nineteenth century Whitechapel, it also blurs and confounds the details of story, characters and interactions. It is hard to keep track of where history and drama diverge. The writers and directors, Midge and Rosie Mullin, have created something profoundly moving in this transfigured reenactment of a true tale of horror.

Digby secrets
Inspector Swanson: Midge Mullin
Nurse: Rosie Mullin
With just one set, and a few props, the actors take us from a travelling freak-show to a comfortable gentlemen's club, then to the fearful back streets of Whitechapel and the cloistered confines of Digby Hospital. As always in Substance and Shadow productions, lighting, sound effects and voice-overs (all controlled by Alex White and Samantha Bearder) create a captivating and compelling atmosphere. On this occasion, the atmosphere is one of dark dread and suspicion.

A portentous gift
Michael Maybrick: Richard Pulman
John Smith Sanders: Al Wadlan
This magnificent piece of theatre is a delight for lovers of history and horror alike. The venue is perfect, and the stagecraft quite magical. It is worth arriving early - drinks are available in the bar downstairs and the actors are already in character, waiting to greet you. Anyone who appreciates a gruesome murder mystery will be well satisfied by the experience of Substance and Shadow's latest production

The macabre spectacle of 'Walking with God' is showing at St Nicholas' Priory for five more nights. After a single 7pm performance tomorrow there will be two performances on Thursday, and two per night from Wednesday to Friday next week.

Midge Mullin
(Photography: Matt Austin)
Substance & Shadow Theatre Company
St Nicholas Priory
Tuesday 19 November 7&9pm
Wednesday 20 November 7pm
Thursday 21 November 7&9pm
Wednesday-Friday 27-29 November 7&9pm
Directors: Midge Rosie Mullin

Starring:  Midge MullinAl Wadlan

              Richard Pulman, Rosie Mullin
              Jola Pawlikowska, Fern Stone
              Ronnie Kerswell-O'Hara
Lighting & Projections: Alex White
Tickets: £10
Online BookingTicketSource

Richard Pulman is Michael Maybrick
- opening monologue

Jola Pawlikowska is Mary Jane Kelly
- opening monologue

Fern Stone is Molly
Jola Pawlikowska is Mary Jane Kelly
- life in Whitechapel

Midge Mullin is Donald Swanson
Al Wadlan is John William Smith Sanders
- interrogation at Digby Hospital

Midge Mullin is Donald Swanson
Ronnie Kerswell-O'Hara is 'Dark Annie'
- dream sequence

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