Review: The Terror of London (The Springheel Saga Series 2) / Author: Gareth Parker, Robert Valentine / Publisher: The Wireless Theatre Company / Starring: Christopher Finney, John Holden White, Jessica Dennis, Neil McCormack, Philip Lawrence, Andrew Shepherd, Josephine Timmins, Ashley McGuire, Carina Reeves, Silas Hawkins, Neil Frost, Matthew Woodcock, Jane Deane, James Duckworth, Jeremy Stockwell, David Benson, Nicholas Parsons / Release Date: December 9th
The Wireless Theatre Company has returned to the world of Victorian folklore figure Springheel’d Jack with The Terror of London, the first of what will be three stories in Series 2 (the others arriving late December 2013 and January 2014).
For those who don’t know, Springheel’d Jack was an urban legend (and maybe more), a figure capable of making startling leaps in his dark cloak. He also had red eyes and claw-like hands. He was widely reported as being seen all over London in the late 1830s (the subject of Series 1) and in this series has now been seen all across England.
It is 1845 and Springheel’d Jack is now a folk figure even appearing in Punch and Judy shows, regularly seen at so-called Penny Gaff theatres (which were popular before the Music Hall). The hero of the series is DI Jonah Smith (Christopher Finney), a policeman who has an obsessive interest in Jack and who appears at the start of this play investigating the murder of young Maria. This allows a quick tour round major returning characters from the previous series such as love interest Charlotte Fitzrandolph (Jessica Dennis). It also sets up a travelling circus and a writer/ journalist Rymer (John Holden-White, based on an historical figure) the sinister Punch & Judy Man, and a surprise (to me) appearance by Nicholas Parsons as Cuthbert Leach, a stage magician whose assistant Lizzie Coombes (Josephine Timmins) has an interest in the death of poor young Maria.
This is a full cast production in spades and will remind listeners of Ripper Street and possibly the Big Finish Jago & Litefoot series (and the Doctor Who story Talons of Weng-Chiang); it is none of these but its own thing, with a gritty realism brought out by writing and production of evident quality.
The Terror of London is released on December 9th 2013 and full details are available on the Wireless Theatre Company website for this and the rest of this series. You can also grab Series 1 as well for free if you sign up soon. As someone who has yet to hear Series 1 of The Springheel Saga I found this to be highly accessible and it needs little knowledge of Victorian history for full enjoyment.