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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

Unfinished business: Pussycat in Memory of Darkness @finborough

Shedding light on the origins of the conflict in Ukraine is what you find in Pussycat in Memory of Darkness. It returns to the Finborough Theatre after its original acclaimed run last summer. History can be tricky to grasp in the age of disinformation and flawed democracies. But here, the past and the future that awaits are woven together. 

As one woman's account about losing everything, we're introduced to the Donbas circa 2014 with a woman in dark glasses trying to sell a few kittens. Homeless and disoriented, the prospective buyer of kittens remains off stage, asking questions about papers, documents and why she is wearing those dark glasses. And this sets in train the story of a woman in the Donbas. She fought for freedom and saw the collapse of the Soviet Union in the nineties. But now finds herself ostracised and caught up in false narratives and alternative facts. 

Written by Nelda Nezhdana and translated by John Farndon, It's harrowing and emotional. But also thought-provoking about what is a country or a nation and how we got ourselves where we are. Behind the chants of freedom, and sovereign countries, there is a messy unsolved grasp for power and territory over the lands that make up present-day Ukraine.

The play focuses on the events of 2014. But The occupation of the Donbas region, the seizing of Crimea and the downing of a Malaysian Airlines jet become the start of a new dark chapter. And the darkness is an opaque power that will send large swathes of people back into a new feudal order run by overlords who prefer international luxury brands.

As a storyteller and woman at the centre of the drama, Kristin Milward is riveting as she recounts her early days fighting the communists for freedom to losing everything when the Russian-backed militia arrives at her home. Optimism gives way to darkness as rumours, fear, and past wrongs become new false narratives. Millard shape shifts around the characters in her life. This includes her neighbour, who betrays her to the militia and finds her son is maimed by militia-placed land mines. But that's the trouble with these totalitarian regimes. You never know where you stand. 

Pussycat in Memory of Darkness is directed by Polly Creed and is at the Finborough Theatre until 28 April. Reduced price tickets available in early April. There are no performances between 13-16 April when the play transfers to Hessisches Staatstheater, Wiesbaden, Germany.


Photos by Charles Flint

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