The Accidental Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Mon 8th – Mon 29th August 2016

reviews

Emma Taylor

at 09:34 on 12th Aug 2016

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If you asked anyone what the symbols of Sherlock Holmes were, even those with barely any knowledge of the Baker Street detective would be able to mindlessly reel off the list– pipe, deerstalker cap, a billowing cape and the ever hapless Dr Watson following. This is ‘The Accidental Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ in an inventory list; a sad jumble of objects haphazardly glued together with none of the clever plotlines or wit expected from a Holmes production.

In all fairness, it was never meant to be serious. It is meant to be a comical and satirical take, and theoretically this is a sound foundation. The character provides rich pickings for satire with his well-known, ridiculous traits and a recognisable appearance, yet somehow this performance misses them all, relying instead on a kind of cheap reproduction. The plot revolves around the death of a potential client that Holmes may or may not have accidentally killed with a golf club. Cue a whole play developing from this farce, which leads predictably to Moriarty trying to take over the world. There is a series of plot twists at the end which are the play’s saving grace, a spark of genuinely original wit and humour which salvage it from the pile of hundreds of faceless Holmes spinoffs.

Plot aside, the comic elements themselves have a tired feel. Jokes are predictable and characters moulded from the usual stereotypical casts (a confused policeman, a crazy supervillain bringing out the evil laugh every few minutes), portrayed with satire in mind but not on stage. The character of Holmes also seems faded, a watercolour version with none of his usual brilliance. There are some vaguely witty one-liners, such as the policeman’s at the end, but these are pinpricks in the darkness of an otherwise desolate comic landscape. Rare gems of this kind are Watson’s asides to the audience, which usually include witty sarcasms regarding his own hidden agenda and Holmes’ conceit. In fact, the character of Watson is much more developed than Holmes’ flimsy Dtwo-dimensional paper persona, and Thomas Parker, the actor portraying him, skilfully depicts Watson’s double character. All of the actors (the others being Jasmine Atkins-Smart and Joshua Phillips) play multiple roles with a talented fluidity that should be recognised.

It is, all in all, an average production, with the audience left searching, Holmes-like, for an original laugh. Whilst Sherlock Holmes is known for its brilliant intelligence and exquisitely crafted plotlines, the only Holmes lingering in this production are tacky souvenir props – the deerstalker, the tweed, the pipe. It could have, and should have, been better.

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Thomas Jordan

at 10:36 on 12th Aug 2016

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Sherlock Holmes is, and always will be, appreciated by every literature, theatre or television lover. Its natural format – a mystery murder and a stylish but complex detective – is one that is difficult to ruin. Unfortunately, Tobacco Tea Theatre Company come quite close. Rather than providing an original twist on a familiar formula, 'The Accidental Adventures' simply dumbs down Sherlock into a bizarrely childish attempt at satire and metatheatre. No story deserves immunity from new interpretation, but in this case Mr Conan Doyle would have reason to protest.

Though a returning feature from 2015, the production seems amateurish from the off. A blank set with three plastic chairs cannot be some kind of attempt at minimalism – each character is decked out as though they’ve been given a wad of vouchers for their local costume party shop. The script continues this trend: the comedy supposedly comes from flat, obvious jokes that are crudely shoved in audience faces, not helped by some clearly decent actors being told to overact like they had gotten the Fringe mixed up with their Christmas pantomime job. Consequently, the inherent sophistication and elegance of Sherlock is agonisingly pounded into infantilised humour; the moment for many to puff their cheeks out in frustration is the painfully clunky wordplay that requires the made-up shop ‘Tweed Elementary’. Even the smattering of seven and eight year-olds were not laughing at that. Rather than giggling, chuckling, or even just smirking, there is a groan of understanding that trickles round the room from the more sympathetic audience members; it’s not ‘ha ha’, it’s ‘I get it’.

If the humour is embarrassingly simple, perhaps the intrigue of this show should arise from its satirical elements. Not so. The metatheatrical crux of the work is apparently the constant swapping of narrative power between Sherlock, Watson and Moriarty, the last of whom is addicted to detective fiction. Deciphering the satirical aim of this meta-storyline is taxing, whilst it naturally causes ridiculous plot twists that are so overplayed one feels the actors do not believe you understand what metatheatre is; informing the audience that the play seems “curiously contrived” does not stop it from being “contrived”, Sherlock. Eventually some jokes are given some context and reasoning, and it becomes clear – but not too clear – that the cast is sending up the traditional Sherlock attention to detail. Finally, a few genuine laughs.

This arrives in time to resuscitate the show to some degree. If it is aimed at families, then parents are making a big sacrifice. Regrettably, so are the kids.

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