Review: Sherlock Holmes & The Ripper Murders at Buxton Opera House

Imagination is a powerful force in bringing the shock factor to a theatrical work.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 27th August 2015, 5:30 pm
Sam Clemens and George Telfer in Sherlock Holmes & The Ripper Murders at Buxton Opera House from August 24 to 26.
Sam Clemens and George Telfer in Sherlock Holmes & The Ripper Murders at Buxton Opera House from August 24 to 26.

There’s no blood sloshing around the stage at Buxton Opera House just blood-thirsty screams piercing the air in Sherlock Holmes & The Ripper Murders.

A projected image of a bloodied, mutilated body flashes up on screen so quickly that if you blink you’ll miss it but the horrific sight makes the audience gasp.

Even upstanding Sherlock has the propensity to shock. He uses his bow tie as a tourniquet and injects himself, describing the fix as a presciption drug when challenged.

Lobotomies, a secret society and corruption among the upper classes add to the murky elements of a detective story which is far from cosy.

It’s big on atmosphere with dramatic lighting and melodramatic music ratcheting up the tension in a compelling production directed by Patric Kearns.

Killings are signalled by the Ripper reaching into his pocket for a knife, followed by a discordant noise and a flash of red light. Back projected images of a labyrinth of streets where the killer preys on prostitutes and puppet-like figures slip in and out of the shadows contrast with the grandeur of a stately home where dancers’ silhouettes flit back and foward behind windows and Sherlock’s cluttered study where the detective attempts to unravel the crime of the century.

It’s a tough call for Samuel Clemens who plays the title role in a play which was written by his father Brian - but he does his late dad proud in a production which is dedicated to the prolific writer’s memory.

Slightly implausible is the storyline that Sherlock would find romance among the gloom but at least it’s with a woman of mystery in the guise of a clairvoyant played by Lara Lemon.

George Telfer as the practical Watson - described by his boss as his primeval barometer - brings humour aplenty to lighten the dark elements of the drama.

You’ll need to possess the detection capablities of a super sleuth to fathom out where other characters slot into the complicated story. However, like the jigsaw which Watson refers to during the course of the play, all the pieces fit together in the end.

Sherlock Holmes & The Ripper Murders is at the Opera House until Wednesday, August 26,

GAY BOLTON