A Sherlock Carol

"This ghostly crossover is a Christmas feel good treat with a delightful amount of brain scratching"

"Sherlock Holmes has little appetite for mince pies or for solving crime. Wandering through Victorian London, he meets a grown-up and not-so-Tiny Tim Cratchit who implores him to investigate the mysterious death of his reformed benefactor, one Ebenezer Scrooge.   An impossible murder, a threatening letter, and a missing diamond – it’s just enough to intrigue the great detective. But it’s a dark and treacherous Christmas Eve, and once again the night is haunted by the spirits of the past, present, and future".

This ghostly crossover was a Christmas feel good treat with a delightful amount of brain scratching. Taking place a stone’s throw from Baker Street, it is hard to believe this is not an original Sherlock Holmes mystery with various plotlines all getting tangled together and then easily straightened out in elementary fashion at the end.

Written and directed by Mark Shanahan, each scene was well crafted with enough detail and references to both classic stories that it almost made too much sense to be woven together. The space was always balanced, characters moved around with ease and even through some complicated observations monologued by Sherlock, the stage was never static.

Performed by a cast of six with only Sherlock, Ben Caplan, and Scrooge, Kammy Darweish, maintaining their roles. The rest of the cast, Rosie Armstrong, Jessica Hern, Richard James and Devesh Kishore, played a massive array of characters from both The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and A Christmas Carol. Though potentially a few too many name drops, there were plenty for avid fans to geek over.

Unfortunately, the actors were not given microphones which meant that a few carol songs and whispered lines didn't make it past the first half of the stalls. Though this was a rare occasion, and improved into the second act, it was jarring.

The only other disappointment came from a few lines which felt dated and not in an appropriate timely way. Specifically Scrooge being "confined" to a wheelchair and the discussion around Tiny Tim's condition felt neglectful of the freedom that mobility aids can provide. Although only relevant for a couple of lines, this could easily have been avoided should production have included an access consultant.

Amongst the ensemble was the fantastic Richard James, who played Dr Watson and Scrooge's maid, alongside a plethora of other roles, and embodied the varying characters with ease. Every character from elderly woman to grumbled goose seller was a joy to see come to life.

Kammy Darweish performed a reformed Scrooge with gusto and loud joy which was a true festive treat to see. Scrooge was also responsible for various comedic jump scares and boisterous moments which were delightful.

Of course a mention must go to Ben Caplan’s Sherlock Holmes, who almost never left the stage. It takes a particularly skilled performer to carry a show as well as Caplan did with his character development being a joy to watch. Beginning with a complete loss of self and a mental haunting of Moriarty's ghost, to giving the audience a cheeky grin when finally picking up the iconic pipe. Caplan's charismatic Sherlock had the audience wrapped around his little finger.

The set, designed by Anna Louizos, was beautiful and timely. The simplistic design allowed for various locations to be easily brought to life by stage manager Grace Pattinson. Built by Set Blue Scenery and Tom Baum, the stage sunk into the story’s history and felt authentic.

Also bringing the stage to life was John Gromada's genius elements of sound design. Diegetic sounds were so well placed and timed that it was easy to be drawn into the world without realising these moments of stagecraft were so effortlessly being done. One of these included wind blowing when outside which was almost unnoticeable in the best of ways. A real testament to detail was a small bell ringing as characters walked around a pole which was instantly recognisable as walking through a shop door onto the street.

This was further enhanced by the wonderful lighting, designed by Rui Rita, which highlighted the stage and scenes expertly. Delving into cinematography, the stage could be instantly blacked out with spotlights to highlight a character allowing the scene to change without the show stopping. Varying warmths to the colour of lighting changed to reflect a candle lit glow inside the building and a moonlight flood when wandering the streets of London. A standout moment is by far when Sherlock, Caplan, is standing in a dark room and as he lights a candle, the small area around him was lit with an orange glow. It would be easy to forget this was staged and not an authentic hue.

If you're looking for a feel good show this Christmas with twists, turns and literal wild goose chase then look no further than A Sherlock Carol. The show is booking until the 7th of January.

This show was reviewed on the 30th November 2023 at the Marylebone Theatre, London.  Tickets available here: A Sherlock Carol at Marylebone Theatre
 

Review written by Ryan Lenney

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Photo credit: Alex Brenner

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