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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

Lighter shades of grey: The Picture of Dorian Gray @Trafstudios

Something seems missing in this new adaptation of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, currently playing at Trafalgar Studios. Missing is any sense of excitement or thrills you would expect from Oscar Wilde's story about a beautiful man's hedonistic descent.

The story was a scandal when it was first published. This new adaptation by Merlin Holland (Wilde's grandson) and John O'Connor, restores some homoerotic passages from the original manuscript. But as fascinating as they are, the overall piece is a bit of a damp squib.

It is perplexing that more was not made of the the added homoeroticism. There are no kisses, no sexual liaisons. It all talk and no show in this passionless production, despite the dialogue suggesting otherwise.

Guy Warren-Thomas as Dorian with his sharp and delicate features makes a fine Dorian, but the remaining three performers seem miscast. They also have the thankless task of playing over twenty roles and dragging a few pieces of furniture about the set.

If it is an economic necessity to have four cast members, it would be better to remove some of the superfluous roles so that the differentiation between characters did not have to rely on the type of hat or gloves the actor is wearing. Future shows that reduce casts should also seriously look at equal gender casting so we don't have to have suffer male actors playing pantomime dames in drama pieces.

Downstairs at the Trafalgar Studios is a great intimate space and at times it feels like they are acting in your lap. But with its short scenes and huge cast, perhaps this is a piece that might play better as a television movie... It is a pity that it has not been adapted to better suit its current space (and its economic confines).

The Picture of Dorian Grey is at Trafalgar Studios until 13 February.


Photo credit: Production photo by Emily Hyland

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