The Sins of Jack Saul review at Above the Stag, London – ‘energetic and entertaining’
Taggart creator Glenn Chandler has already demonstrated an interest in Victorian gay history through his musicals Cleveland Street and Fanny and Stella – The Shocking True Story. For his third foray into the genre, Chandler looks at the story of Jack Saul, a popular rent-boy of the era, who was embroiled in several notorious scandals.
Whereas the previous pieces had a straightforward linear structure, The Sins Of Jack Saul uses purgatory as its narrative framework. The recently deceased ‘Dublin Jack’ must prove to the Devil that his soul is worth saving, with a single instance of altruism from his infamously corrupt life.
Chandler’s witty book highlights the historical injustices that criminalised gay men as well as the class divide that protected the wealthy and well-connected. David Shields’ costume design has a quirky, contemporary vibe that echoes the queer sensibilities of the piece and Charles Miller’s score veers confidently between Irish folk ballads and effervescent music hall.
Steven Dexter’s equally assured direction maintains a sardonic tone, which is embraced by the company, resulting in theatre that’s both enlightening and entertaining. Jack McCann delivers an impressive debut in the title role but it’s really the versatile ensemble that bring energy and character to Jack’s story.