Meet The Performer: Lilly Laudanum, Ripper Enthusiast…

Yes, yes, we know you already know Lilly Laudanum! she’s been performing at every one of our shows since we began, February 2010… So as she needs no introduction, we thought we’d get her to explain why she is doing a Jack The Ripper-themed act at tonight’s show…

LillyLaudanum_DarkAnnieChair_web_NeilKendall“In Whitechapel, 1888, a season of ‘orrible murders took place between the 31 August (when first victim Polly Ann Nichols was found on Buck’s Row) and 9th November (when the horrifically mutilated body of Mary Jane Kelly was found in her room at Miller’s Court). Many of you know that I worked at The London Dungeon and part of that work involved devising scripts for the actors, and let’s just say I got quite a bit interested in the Ripper case having read (and yes, I still read) the many theories on who Jack The Ripper was.

My Dark Annie’s Danse Macabre is an extension of the character I used to do at the Dungeon – the costume for her was actually a dress I made when I first started working at the Dungeon in ’97 until I recently upgraded her! Annie Chapman’s story is quite a sad one, really. Last seen heating up a jacket potato on the hearth at the Whitechapel doss house, she was turfed out onto the streets because she’d spent her lodging money – basically a couple of pence for a bed for the night. When we say ‘bed’ there was little comfort – literally a room filled with beds that were a wooden trough-type affair so that if anyone died in the night, which happened regularly due to the vagrant’s life and diseases such as tuberculorosis, syphilis and other conditions such as liver failure and alcoholism, they could be taken out in a box and sent to the morgue. And sleep was no luxury either due to the constant toing and froing of other people, drunken arguments and the fact you had to sleep in all your clothes (the poor residents of Whitechapel often wore all the clothes they had in layers and carried things like combs, soap and a knife to eat with in pockets, tied around their waists) so others didn’t steal your clothes or boots in the night. So Annie was forced to ply her trade, despite the dangers, and made her way into history. She was found in the back yard of 29 Hanbury Street on the 8th September at around 6am by John Davies, who was on his way to work. Like Mary Ann Nichols, Annie had had her throat slashed and had been disemboweled. Interestingly she was found with her belongings arranged around her head and an apparent ‘clue’ – an envelope deliberately torn to reveal the penned letters JM and left by her body. In James Maybrick’s diary, he says he left this by the body.

No one knows who the killer was, which is why the mystery is still so fascinating, but clues were left, and taunting letters were sent to police – one addressed ‘From Hell’ – admitting to grisly deeds, such as eating the kidney of Catherine Eddowes (the author of the ‘Dear Boss’ letter states it “was very nise”) – all alluding to the fact that Jack was still at large, taking liberties right under the newly established police forces’ nose, and all making the perpetrator notorious.

In my gorelesque act, you will find some of these clues – like the bunch of grapes, kidney and Dear Boss letter… I like to think of this act as a tribute to his victims – that they have a life after death (my act starts after Annie has been slain) and every year at around this time I raise a glass of gin (not the awful, penny-a-pint stuff his victims would have downed in the 10 Bells, you understand!) to the fallen ladies of the Ripper who died just trying to make a living, surviving the best they could on the streets of Whitechapel.

Just for fun! My Ripperobics video – Dungeon actors around 2001 will recall some of the moves that we used to ‘warm up’ before hitting the floor!”

All pics by Neil Kendall.

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