Puppets that kill and kill and
Our reviewer loses her mind over Dear Boss
Dear Boss had me at a “puppet show about Jack the Ripper.”
It has all the aspects of something that rocks: the macabre, a Victorian
serial killer, irreverence, prostitutes, and the Elephant Man.
I really shouldn’t have to tell you anything more about Dear Boss, you
should all be dropping your papers and buying tickets for it RIGHT NOW.
Still not convinced? Okay, so you remember that movie From Hell? It came
out a couple years ago? Had Johnny Depp on opium and Heather Graham with
fake red hair and an even faker accent? Wasn’t terrible, but just
wasn’t all that good?
So, Dear Boss is kind of like From Hell, only if From Hell was good and
was a stage play with all but three characters being played by huge
deranged puppets, which are operated by the three actors themselves
(think the stage version of The Lion King, but with dismemberment
instead of singing).
So, not only do the three actors each have to play a whole pile of
characters with myriad accents and convince the audience that these are
all different people, but they have to operate these insane puppets. And
they do it. Well.
Dear Boss is still basically a whodunit, but the detective is American
Charles Fort, who calls himself a “prophet of the unexplained” and
has come to London to examine mysterious phenomena like fish falling
from the sky in Regent Park. Fort, played by Darren Keay, enlists the
help of Joseph Merrick, also known as the Elephant Man. Why? Because
he’s part elephant, he’ll remember the clues. Don’t try to fight
They meet and befriend prostitute Mary Kelly (Rebecca Northan), whose
relationship with her lover Joseph Barnett (playwright, puppet designer
and Ripper suspect Montague Druitt’s great-great nephew Eric Woolfe)
is on the rocks. They begin to realize, by way of famed psychic Helena
Blavatsky and the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, that Mary will
be Jack’s next victim.
The puppets are all scary and stylized as if they belong in a German
expressionist movie, with these little knee high numbers that act out
the murders. Hung on the stage walls for the remainder of the show, the
body count grows. Then there are the ones that are person-sized, and the
actors wear them kind of like sleeves. By the end of the show, there
were knee high puppets talking to the real people and you just can’t
even believe you’re watching this happen right now onstage in front of
Even though it’s dark and has all this creepy Lewis Carroll stuff with
giant caterpillars harassing people in their dream, Dear Boss is funny.
To wit: because it was 1888, the police were so dense about serial
killers that they targeted Jews because they couldn’t believe an
educated Englishman would be so depraved (that’s not the funny part),
but the freaking Elephant Man spouts modern psychoanalytic theory.
Everyone’s sure they’ve got the guy until Joseph Merrick points out
that the murders seem to be an extension of the sexual act, so clearly
this gay man couldn’t have done it.
Dear Boss combines the uncanny with historical accuracy – and PUPPETS.
What’s not to love?