White Bear Theatre, Kennington, London 24-28 July 2018
Reviewed by Lisa Harlow
This Tobacco Tea Theatre Company parody of Arthur Conan Doyle’s most beloved creation is touring in London for its first time after three years of sell-out runs at the Edinburgh Fringe and a sell-out show at Brighton Fringe 2017.
A Sherlock parody seemed an enticing reason to see it and I was very much looking forward to seeing how the two female actors would play the lead roles. Sell-out Fringe shows are always a rollicking ride. Three actors (Jasmine Atkins-Smart, Sophie Milnes and Joshua Phillips) multi-role throughout, and this in itself should have brought many comedic situations into the show.
It begins with Holmes (Atkins-Smart) and Watson (Milnes) having been left bored to tears by a lack of crime in the City, leading Holmes to experiment with a range of mind changing drugs. Mrs Hudson and the LCD episode was most perplexing. Suddenly a new case appears with the appearance of Isabella Lime (Phillips), from whom Holmes begins to extract details of a crime, before she is quickly and accidentally slain …. by Holmes himself. And so begins outlandish plots, wrapped around Holmes’ ridiculous logic and detective work. This certainly seemed a ‘tip of the hat’ to the BBC show Sherlock with its implausible plot twists and grandiose, over-intellectualised story lines. It is largely this spoof reference which holds traction and made the show at least gently enjoyable.
The miniature orchestra pit that opened the performance with a variety of cutesy sound effects and reappears in interludes I’m afraid didn’t really provide the hoped for entertainment and was a rather shaky start. There were a couple of repeated sound gags that brought a smile, but most of it fell rather flatly with the audience.
I found Atkins-Smart performance rather charming of Holmes, even though it was really a straightforward one-dimensional pantomime depiction of the character. Watson (Milnes) acted as the narrator and led the audience through the unravelling absurdities, also providing an able jostling partner with both Holmes and Moriarty. Phillips and Milnes gave decent performances but I felt as if I was in a charming Victorian theatre show, edge and witty sharpness were lacking. The show itself was largely too long and repetitive, there were periods where I lost focus, particularly during the droning Moriarty section. At the most, it is a gentle and jolly parody of the Sherlock show with some humorous observations. But as a show which describes itself as having ‘almost unparalleled entertainment’, I yearned to be far more entertained. A good idea, but needs a large injection of good gags.