The Hound of the Baskervilles, A Study in Scarlet, The Sign Of The Four – to Holmes and Watson's canon we can now add another other "famous" work about, well, whatever today's audience proposes. This excellent improvised show is full of laughs, madness and superb deductions. No-one knows quite where it will go when it begins... but rest assured, you'll be laughing the whole way there.
Before the show you're invited to suggest names for the story on pieces of paper; the lights go down, and Arthur Conan Doyle takes the stage. On the day I attended, he introduced "The Wife's Monthly Cycle", which opened in the botanic gardens. We met Angela Lansbury and Cyril Phoppy, young lovers; alas they both disappeared, fearing, it seemed, for their life. Why and where they'd gone remained a mystery till the end, as (in a clever shift of focus) Watson and Holmes began to investigate a monthly women's cycle race.
The intelligence and quick wits of the actors is demonstrated throughout. The word-play in particular offers excellent humour, without letting it become too farcical. As an example of what to expect, I loved it when Cyril asked "Capital R or little r, romantic... Are you saying you love me, or I should write poetry and die at 27?"
Purists may be upset by the liberties taken with Holmes; he lacks the distance and asocial nature he has in the books. However, I think that decision was a good one. It allows for the humour, and while his begging of the now-married Watson to join him on a case is perhaps out of character, it was also very funny and beautifully devious.
As with all improvisation, there were moments that did not work out, but they were quickly recovered. In addition to the players' skill, this particular show benefits from the format of Conan Doyle's original work; Sherlock's near-magical deductions are a rich source of comedy, and his closing statement conveys the feeling of a completed work, and gives a certain sense of a mystery solved.
The Fringe has many improvised shows, but the wit and style of this one definitely makes it stand out. Funny, intelligent and well-played, I enjoyed the show greatly. I just wish they'd chosen my title.