As this Victorian romp reaches its climax and Sherlock Holmes whips a ladle out of his jacket to use as a weapon with a cry of “Good thing I sleep cook!” I am holding my sides and marvelling at the fact that this show is free. Free! A small but charming cast expertly multi-roles as Sherlock, Watson, Lestrade, Mrs Hudson and a host of ensemble characters to the music of their brilliantly spontaneous band. All this occurs whilst navigating the difficult task of creating a story arc surrounding a title randomly suggested by an audience member. Tonight:
What is especially brilliant is the cast’s ability to weave a story through connections and references to earlier events
The self-consciousness of an improvisational performance is often the aspect that creates the most comedy, and here that self-consciousness was delivered in buckets. The cast really make the most of misunderstood lines – “An old duck” instead of “A hole dug” – and give each other hell on stage. It was around the point that Sherlock catches a bullet from the villain’s gun, prompting the outraged reaction of “I’m sorry but you cannot catch a bullet!” that the audience completely lost it.
Flashbacks and cutaways were used generously to side splitting effects. – One that sticks in mind is a mini flashback to the night before the events of the play take place, wherein Sherlock pours a whole pan of coq au vin onto Mrs Hudson, who is sleeping in the bath. As the flashbacks continue to occur they honestly only get funnier – the company get away with really indulging in them.
What was especially brilliant about this performance was the cast’s ability to weave a story through connections and references to earlier events. Seemingly unimportant (although hilariously crafted) characters miraculously appear to save the day, as do initially innocent seeming kitchen utensils. It is not only the quick-witted connections and links that are impressive, but the fact that the climactic scene – Sherlock and Watson racing through an underground tunnel system and crashing at an intersection – was actually quite exciting, and not a rushed loose end tie-up job which you find all too often in long-form improvisation.
Continuous references to Lestrade as “Coffin Greg” were particularly entertaining – a joke that continued until the end and did not get tired. This production managed to get by on clever laughs, rather than cheap ones, and it is absolutely no surprise that it was packed out – again, free! Silly but intelligent, this will honestly have me coming back for a few more performances (it is, of course, different every time).