Friday, 5 February 2016

Sherlock Holmes and the Ripper Murders. Reviewed at The Hexagon, Reading, 27th October 2015

This is another production from the prolific talking Scarlet Company written by the late Brian Clemens. There are many theories about The Whitechapel Murders and the identity of Jack the Ripper. For his story Clemens has followed very much the theory laid down by Stephen Knight in his 1976 book Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution.

Clemens’ plot certainly has something for everyone out there whether they are ‘ripperologists’ and their determination in uncovering the murderer’s identity, conspiracy theorists, or just plain fans of the Sherlock Holmes canon. It explores only one avenue of thought as to the identity of Jack the Ripper yet it is still a suitable way of introducing a whole host of conspiratorial characters including Andrew Paul as reputable physician Sir William Gull, a man who may have had blood on his hands and his possible accomplice, Netley, played with menace by Michael Kirk. There is even a touch of spiritualism in the guise of Lara Lemon’s Kate Mead.

However, let us turn to those two most enduring literary characters, Holmes and Watson. It is good to see that we have now ditched that entire Inverness cape and deerstalker nonsense that has plagued the consulting detective since Sidney Paget’s illustrations in the Strand Magazine. It’s a welcome departure and eagerly embraced here by Samuel Clemens’ Holmes who plays it straight and without the theatrical flushes that dogged Jeremy Brett and Basil Rathbone.

His Holmes is logical yet somewhat vulnerable, maybe even possessing a heart and provides a perfect foil to George Telfer’s witty and strident Watson. Telfer adds both humour and a vitality that sharply contrasts to the disturbing thread of the onstage action.

There is little in the way of a set, a couple of chairs, a table and a couple of platforms. Locations are illustrated by back projections on what looked like mighty curtains. It somehow worked but did not lend itself satisfactorily to the intimidating Hexagon space. 

Overall, though, it was a rewarding performance. It was erudite and cunning and offered up another strand in the ongoing fascination for the perpetrator of those vicious late nineteenth century crimes. I am sure there will be others who will follow, new theories, new disputes but the moment let’s leave it with Brian Clemens and the team at talking Scarlet.

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