There are so many cases where serial killers become historical figures (Jack the Ripper, Son of Sam, Charles Manson) while the victims are given five minutes of fame (more like pity) and then they are forgotten. They kind of just fall through the cracks of history. Aoise Stratford's The Unfortunates is about a woman named Mary Jane Kelly. She was a local prostitute in London during the 1800’s. Mary has a drinking problem and a passion for sewing. Mary Jane Kelly is believed to be the fifth and final victim of Jack the Ripper.
The Unfortunates explores the moments before Mary was murdered. By only focusing on Mary and making it a one woman show, Stratford attempts to separate the victim from the crime by giving a voice to the victim. This makes Jack the Ripper not even a character in the show; he’s more like an entity that your aware is there but stays silent. This seems like a very risky chance for a playwright to take. The question that lingers in my mind: are we interested in hearing that voice?
In the culture we live, it seems like everyone wants to dig into the mentality of a crazed murderer. Mary represents a new perspective. The media puts so much emphasize on the “man behind the knife” that it’s become a social obsession to know all we can about the murderer.
So, if you had to choose whose voice would you want to hear, would it be Mary’s or Jack’s?