Lunchtime Seminar Series – 11th November: Charlotte Mallinson (University of Huddersfield)

CHSTMSeminar Charlotte Mallinson

“…And that’s Where They Found Her.” An Examination of ‘Pantomime’, ‘Person’ and ‘Place’ within Ripper Tourism.

A story detailing the unsolved murders of an unknown number of late 19th century, impoverished, middle aged women does little or nothing to capture the historic imagination. However, one could argue that by simply introducing the terms ‘Whitechapel’, ‘prostitutes’ ‘mutilation’ and ‘Jack the Ripper’ to the previous sentence and a very different response is evoked. Arguably, one’s mind is instantaneously transported to a vanished Victorian London. Where through the smog, on a gas lit, East End cobbled street, one can almost begin to recognise the familiar silhouette of a cloaked, top-hat wearing man – carrying his doctor’s bag.

It is widely established that the ‘Jack the Ripper’ crimes remain one of the world’s most infamous ‘whodunnits’. Likewise, there is little doubt that ‘historic tourism’ and, sex and violence, sell. And on these basic levels it is easy to see how ‘Ripper Tourism’ has become such a lucrative success. It currently stands that there are 14 separate tour companies in operation, each nightly walking between 15 and 150 tourists around the East-End. Arguably, this is a rather bleak way to spend your surplus money and leisure time. So how do the tour guides lighten the tone and leave the tourists feeling educated, invigorated and entertained?

This paper will briefly examine the relationship between geography and history within this particular narrative – thus raising the question, ‘just how important is the ‘exact’ use of place when delivering tour-based historic ‘entertainment?’ Furthermore, it will argue that through engaging with theatrical narrative approaches, and the implication of archetypal pantomime characters, such as the ‘baddie we love to hate’ and the ‘ugly sisters’ the tour guides enable a narrative which allows audience participation and total entertainment (irrespective of the subject matter). But to find out who the ‘baddies’ are in these histories, and whether or not, the heroine of the piece gets her heart stolen, you will have to attend this matinee performance and all will be revealed …

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