Writer: Daniel Clarkson and Tom Clarkson
Director: Hanna Berrigan
Reviewer: Maryam Philpott
Londoners are very busy people; with so many places to go, friends to see and things to do, it’s impossible to fit everything in, especially at this time of the year. With so little free time even taking an evening or two to read a book is unlikely, never mind trying to get through the 60 Sherlock Holmes stories. Fortunately, Potted Sherlock is the answer and in just eighty minutes the cast will solve every single mystery featuring the famous detective, leaving you free to get to multiple Christmas parties later in the evening.
This is a pretty crazy show with the performers introducing the concept and the production as themselves before becoming a variety of Conan Doyle’s characters. Initially Daniel Clarkson is Holmes with Jefferson Turner as Watson, but before long Lizzie Wort arrives and suddenly the cast are swapping rôles and genders quicker than the various cases are being solved. If you are unfamiliar with all the stories then some of the ‘case solved’ moments will pass you by, but to maintain the tension, there is a counter ticking them off as they go.
Potted Sherlock is high energy stuff and the performers maintain their enthusiasm throughout as they drop in and out of character and interact with the audience. As well as Sherlock stories, this show is littered with pop culture references – everything from Dirty Dancing to James Bond, from Shaft to the Spice Girls – which are almost more fun to spot than seeing the cases. Arguably it is this element of the show that is most fun and the show seems a little underwritten when they just read out some titles and resolutions rather than incorporating them into a sketch or song. Relying on their own zany interaction and a catalogue of modern associations is clearly a formula the performers can apply to any series of books including their previous show Potted Potter.
A few of the scenes drag a little and it is probably a mistake to include an interval, the show is so short it just breaks the momentum. Potted Sherlock is really at its best when the jokes come thick and fast, including one attempt to solve 15 cases in quick succession and a few off-script moments which give the actors a chance to indulge their improvisation skills. A lot of this is somewhere between very funny and utterly surreal; no more so than giving Moriarty the head of Daniel Clarkson attached to a tiny puppet body.
This light-hearted approach to the Sherlock Holmes novels is undoubtedly a crowd-pleaser, with plenty of farcical comedy for the children and pop references for the adults. Although you may not manage to catch the solutions to all the Holmes’s stories, Potted Sherlock is a crazy and amusing dash through Victorian London. If you have eighty minutes to spare then this lively show will certainly entertain even if it doesn’t quite satisfy the Conan Doyle craving.
Runs Until: 11 January 2015 | PhotoGeraint Lewis