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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

Smokes and parasites: A Princess Undone @ParkTheatre

It’s a hot and stormy August evening, and Princess Margaret is on a mission in A Princess Undone. The trouble is, with so much reverence for the subject - and not much of a mission - it’s hard to see the drama (or comedy) in this piece by Richard Stirling. It’s currently playing at Park Theatre.

It’s August 1993. Most of the Royals are at Balmoral. Princess Margaret is at Kensington Palace with the Queen Mother’s steward William Tallon (also played by Stirling). After clearing out correspondence from the Queen Mother’s rooms in Clarence House they’re getting ready to burn it. 

The trouble is Princess Michael of Kent is watching them. And they aren’t too sure if Diana has slipped out for a night of playing catch with the paparazzi. And some boy is claiming to have information on her liaisons with underworld figure John Bindon.

The premise sounds like it could be a farce exploring the world of the royals and the sycophants that surround them. But too often the punches are pulled and we’re left with a drama rather than a romp. Which is too bad since it would be much more fun to laugh at all the fuss about nothing. 

Most of the secrets being burnt would be let out by a succession of books and people lining up to sell their stories to the press. The piece points out Princess Margaret’s drinking, drugs and sexual escapades were eclipsed by the next generation of squidgy and toe-sucking royals. But there was still much to find mirth in the princess without a point. A royal with a title and no purpose. Other than to have a few streets named after her and a string of lovers of dubious reputation.

Throughout the play much is also made about the Gasworks, the Chelsea spot where many of the characters frequented. You could be forgiven thinking it was a glamour spot rather than some grim place run by eccentrics serving up indelible food.

Felicity Dean as Princess Margaret looks the part with her big hair and chain smoking. Too bad she isn’t allowed to be nastier, funnier and dirtier in this piece. Afterall, that’s what would make us feel there’s a little Princess Margaret in all of us.

Directed by Jonny Kelly, A Princess Undone is at Park Theatre until 17 March.


Production photos by Simon Annand

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