The escapades of a notorious Irish male prostitute in Victorian era England have formed the basis of a critically acclaimed piece of musical theatre.
By Barry Lord Photos: Gaz Photography
The Sins of Jack Saul is from the pen of Glenn Chandler, creator of Scottish TV’s long running detective series Taggart, and is currently being performed at the Above the Stag fringe theatre in Lambeth, London.
Jack was a poor, Dublin-born boy who was involved in the notorious Cleveland Street brothel trial of 1889 –a scandal which implicated members of the establishment and the Royal family at the time – and before that, the 1884 Dublin Castle scandal, which saw a number of men working in the Castle administration tried for having homosexual relations.
This new work has afforded a young, upcoming Irish native the chance showcase his talents in the leading role.
Jack McCann takes on the titular role and has been hugely encouraged by the reaction from audiences to the piece.
“The reaction has been very positive and we’ve been well received by the critics so far,” said Derry-born Jack. “For some people, the subject matter has been a bit of a shock, but that hasn’t affected their enjoyment of the play.”
For Jack and his fellow cast, there has also been a level of audience expectation which they have had to contend with.
“The same creative team put on a production of Fanny & Stella at this theatre last year,” explained Jack. “So I think we have a somewhat returning audience that perhaps is expecting a sequel of sorts to that show, and what they get here is something different.”
Jack has thrown all his creative energy into the role, admitting that he knew little about the young man he was due to play.
“Like many people, I wasn’t familiar with Jack’s story,” said Jack. “It wasn’t until I went to the audition and met with Glenn (writer) that I learned more. To be involved in two major scandals in the one decade certainly puts Jack into the category of ‘infamous’ as opposed to famous,” laughed Jack.
Jack has also been given a certain amount of freedom in his interpretation of the character.
“It’s not like playing Oscar Wilde, or another cultural icon,” said Jack. “I’m the first to play this role so there’s obviously no other interpretation to look to for inspiration. That’s given me the freedom to create a character, while staying true to Jack Saul himself.”
Jack added: “From research, I know that Jack was short and wiry. Not like me at all. I’m six foot!”
Jack said his love of musical theatre stemmed from his family.
“My dad was MD at our local musical society in Derry. I know where to trace my love and appreciation of musical theatre.”
And this appreciation continues to be nurtured in London, where Jack is still studying at Trinity Laban, the conservatoire of music and dance. No mean feat to lead the cast of any show, especially for one still learning their craft, but Jack is remarkably grounded and grateful for the chance he has received.
“It’s a great start and I’m at a highly respected venue, with a highly respected team,” said Jack.
“I know actors who spend their whole careers filling someone else’s shoes, but now I get to create a character of my own. That’s not something I could pass up.”
The show runs until June 12th, 2016.
With thanks to Jack Bowman @ Above the Stag.