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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

Opera and horseplay: Falstaff

The Royal Opera's updated production of Verdi's Falstaff received mixed reviews from the audience on Tuesday night. Most people loved the performances, but when it was time for the production team to head onstage, there were some very audible boos (not to be confused with Audioboos). The gentleman next to me booed. He had had been tut tutting throughout most of the opera (particularly as the curtain went up revealing a dazzlingly bright 1950s kitchen in the second act), so it probably was not a surprise, but he did it with such gusto the sound reverberated around.

It is great that so many people are so passionate about Falstaff. It's a wonderful opera about a man who gets his comeuppance. While the production does update the setting from Elizabethan England to 1950s England, for the most part this change does not get in the way of the proceedings. The final scene in the second act in that kitchen was a little clunky and mistimed so much that it was obvious to most of the audience Falstaff wasn't thrown out with the laundry. And when it comes to the magical nymphs and fairies in the third act, things seem slightly stuck in a time warp.

But the closing scenes are lovely and the singing, particularly by the ladies is sweet and there is some fine music making here under the baton of Danielle Gatti. And there is the star turn in the final act by Rupert the horse, who managed to elicit laughs just by staring at Ambrogio Maestri. If there was a love story onstage, this was it...

It runs until 30 May. The closing night will also be televised on BP Summer Big Screens across the country. Check out the dates online.

Director Robert Carsen's case for updating productions follows... Should have explained this to the man to my right Tuesday... Although I suspect he would not have been interested in the rationale...

Photo credit Catherine Ashmore featuring scenes of adult themes and formica kitchens with Amanda Forsythe as Nannetta, Ana María Martínez as Alice Ford, Kai Rüütel as Meg Page in Robert Carsen's production of Falstaff. 

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