FRINGE REVIEW: 'Adventures of the Improvised Sherlock Holmes' is anything but Elementary
I’m a pretty big Sherlock Holmes fan, but I must admit, I wasn’t familiar with the case of “Sherlock Holmes and the Frog” until last night. But that’s probably just because it didn’t exist until the audience suggestion was pulled out of a hat by the cast of Adventures of the Improvised Sherlock Holmes. What followed was an hour of intrigue, international criminality, inter-class warfare and, of course, improvisation.
Improvised Sherlock Holmes seems like such a simple idea at its core. But this show spun the simplistic suggestion of ‘frog’ into a surprisingly layered mystery. We followed the performers from the discovery of a body in the frog pond of an English tobacco magnate’s pond to a dramatic waterside showdown between Holmes, Watson and a pair of criminal Russian siblings. This final scene is commendable, considering there were only three performers in the troupe that night. But what’s truly impressive about the cast of Adventures of the Improvised Sherlock Holmes, is the fact that they managed to simultaneously construct and solve a mystery on the fly.
All the players gave commendable performances in their varied roles. They drew on anything available for a laugh, from Victorian-era observations to their fellow’s occasionally questionable space and object work. However, the humour never felt desperate: off-hand gags quickly turned into running jokes, which then became subplots and, ultimately, clues which paid off at the conclusion of the mystery.
There were a few moments where the cast stumbled over each other, but this is kind of inevitable with improv. And even these moments were often converted into a laugh. Similarly, the pace of the show stuttered sometimes, with certain scenes wandering down imaginary avenues that, while entertaining, didn’t necessarily move the mystery along. Regardless, the show never really dragged, and the performers always seemed conscious of keeping things moving towards the big denouement.
By the time the inevitable wrap-up came around, I found myself both satisfied and wanting more Holmesian improv. Which is a good thing, considering there are another 7 cases to be uncovered across the remaining nights of Adventures of the Improvised Sherlock Holmes’ run. (two of which will be AUSLAN interpreted). And I can promise you that they’re worth looking into. Don’t believe me? Then I recommend you go see it for yourself. Because, the quote Holmes himself: ‘There is nothing like first-hand evidence.’
4 out of 5 Stars
Adventures of the Improvised Sherlock Holmes is on every night until Sat 9th Feb. Get your tickets here.