Sherlock Holmes and The Ripper Murders - Review
I love Buxton and I love Buxton Opera House. A group of ten of us heading off to the theatre meant that we were geared and ready for a good night out (although it was a little disappointing that we didn’t quite fill a whole row!) I also love mysteries and I particularly love Victorian mysteries, so the stage was all set to be captivated - if you’ll pardon the pun...
There are some plays that I’ve seen over and over again, “Gaslight” and “An Inspector Calls” being two of my particular favourites. No matter how many times I see them I’m always thrilled to be seeing them again. Even though I know the plot and, at times, I know what each scene will bring I’m always captivated for the whole of the performance. “Sherlock Holmes and the Ripper Murders” promised to encompass all the ingredients of an inspiring venue and an inspiring performance to provide the best mix and yet something went a little wrong and the mix didn’t quite rise to meet expectation.
My son made a perceptive comment. (He’s been my mystery drama buddy for over a decade now and shares my unhealthy passion for murder.) He suggested that the recent flurry of TV and film adaptations of the Sherlock mysteries has perhaps raised the bar too high. He makes a good point but I’m not convinced that this is entirely the root of the problem - although problem is probably too strong a word. We did enjoy our night out and we did enjoy the performance. Nothing was perceptively bad, it’s just that not too much was overtly good. Now is perhaps a good time to say that I thought Mrs Hudson (Kim Taylforth) and Dr Watson (played in this performance by Greg Fitch) bought particularly vibrant characterisation to the set. The scenery was simple, yet effective and the costumes were well chosen. The flash of the knife (or “knif” according to one part of the story) was cleverly portrayed, although I thought the special effects were rather easily confused with an electric shock. Nevertheless, it dealt with the necessities of the grisly business without breaking protocol.
The cause for my unease came from a more foundational level. It was disappointing that, in this case (metaphorically and literally) Holmes found it necessary to rely upon significant external assistance in order to solve the mystery. It was less than convincing to entertain the thought that Holmes would ever need to heavily depend upon the occult in order to decide his next move. It seems a rather lazy short cut to the plot. At a foundational stage I felt this was a mistake and it tried my patience and dashed my hopes to see my hero flounder so. The medium (Mrs Mead) also led my champion astray in terms of providing a love interest. Such a thing is not to be born! When compared to his previous muse, Irene Adler, Mrs Mead seems languid and insipid - Holmes would never fall for a vague clairvoyant! I also suspect that she was misguided in her prognosis that Holmes’ love had faded away and died in an asylum. I might have believed her if, when in her trance, she’d have discerned that Adler had ended her days in a noose.
I enjoyed the references to the Sherlock heritage (such as the Speckled Band and the Reichenbach Falls) and I enjoyed following the trail of deduction. It’s just a shame that there weren’t more of these details which we’ve come to expect from the great Sherlock Holmes.