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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

Oh Canada: Proud @Finborough #Proudtheplay

The former Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper is the subject of Proud currently playing at The Finborough. It asks what havoc he would have wrecked if he won a larger majority in 2011?

Written by Michael Healey in 2011, it suggests a nightmare situation of a petty-minded leader who uses whatever means possible to achieve his vision. A small-minded vision focused on making the government just a little smaller than it currently. And of course annoying the Canadian Liberal establishment.

Viewing it from the United Kingdom with our shambolic political system, you may be tempted however to think Canadians never had it so good.

After his election in 2011, it must have felt that Harper had consolidated his power. But even political satire can be overtaken by events. Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party in 2015 defeated Harper. There appeared to be a collective sigh of relief that a man who used tactics of fear and division was out of office.

Here Harper (just called the Prime Minister) is made much more likable with a strong performance by Nicholas Cass-Beggs. He is a bit like a kid in candy store trying to put in place his little vision to end big government. And with a larger majority than anyone expected he has more power than he knows what to deal with. But newly elected conservative representative Lyth (Emily Head) turns out to be his match.

He gets her to promote a private members bill on abortion to distract attention from his other government reforms. At first she seems naive about government but as the play progresses and the two spar about politics and ideas, or is it just about sex? Head has all the best lines and exudes sexual freedom. But she also displays a vulnerability a single parent.

Rounding out the cast is Jude Monk McGowan as Baines the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff and Will Firth as Jake, Lyth’s son when grown up, running as an independent candidate.

But all of this appears quaint compared to the post-truth politics of Britain and the United States. Even the worst excesses of Canada seem tame: stacking the upper chamber, private members bills to distract the media from other government business. Here in the United Kingdom we have an equally shambolic House of Lords. There are endless enquiries and parliamentary committees to distract attention and bury bad news. And not forgetting a news media that never knowingly is fair and balanced.

Democracy may be depressing but here the pacing is kept brisk under Jonny Kelly's direction. In the end you can’t help feeling envious of Canada even if you don’t know much about their politics other than the core appeal of Justin Trudeau.

Proud runs at the Finborough Theatre as part of its Sunday to Tuesday production and concludes this week on 2 August.


Photo credit: production photos by Venus Raven

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