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Christmas Mysteries: A Sherlock Carol @MaryleboneTHLDN

A mash-up of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol and Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes would seem an unlikely pairing. Yet it provides a surprisingly fun Christmas-themed adventure. These two Victorian tales (albeit separated by about 40 years) provide the basis for an inspired adventure at Christmastime that just also happens to turn out to be a murder mystery as well. With lavish costumes, a few spooky set pieces and some good old-fashioned stage trickery with lights and a lot of smoke machines, it is hard to resist. It returns to the Marylebone Theatre for Christmas after a run there last year.  The premise is that after Holmes sees off the criminal mastermind Professor Moriarty, he is left adrift in London. People thought he was dead, and he might as well be. Disinterested in the misdeeds of other Londoners, Holmes has even given up on his friend Dr Watson. It's almost as if he has become a Scrooge. Or half a Scrooge, moping about shouting, "bah" in respon

Theatre: Mother Courage and her Children

After seeing a few low-spectacle shows (or no spectacle shows given the complete lack of imagination in the current Annie Get Your Gun), it was nice to see such a messy, grand epic production of Mother Courage and Her Children at the National Theatre last Wednesday. While I am not normally up for watching a three-hour play, there was so much to take in with this show that it was a hell of a journey worth taking. Fiona Shaw played Mother Courage in this production, who is a woman determined to make a living during the thirty years war (that was the war between 1618 and 1648) despite the consequences. Written by Bertolt Brecht in a new translation by Tony Kushner, the flavour of the story is influenced by recent events in the middle east.

Things blow up, people die, songs are sung and all amongst it there is money to be made and a living to be made. There is nothing too subtle about this show but with some great songs by Duke Special, a great set by Tom Pye and an overall impressive cast (especially Gerard Monaco who managed to act his scenes with his shirt off for what had to be dubious reasons except to show off his impressive physique... Ok so maybe that isn't so dubious) I was paying attention. And for those who like the ladies, there is a delightful scene where a whore gets ready for some soldiers by wiping her car park and show grounds with an old towel...

While some may find the length a little tough (particularly after a long day at work), there were way to many explosions and exceptional parts for falling asleep. Definitely it was one of the more entertaining and interesting evenings out at the theatre I have had in some time. And if you are tired enough to start drifting off to sleep, one of the shootings will bring you back. It is loud enough to be a cause of industrial deafness...

Naturally a show of this length and complexity has many technical effects. It received some criticism at the beginning of its run due to various technical difficulties. Now further into its run this show has got a real rhythm to it (albeit now Gore Vidal is present as a voice over rather than in person as he was for press night). It runs until early December and as part of the Travelex £10 Theatre deal it is a bargain that is well worth catching...

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