Monday, August 19, 2013

'Sherlock Holmes' by Mark Hayward

19 August 2013

We were back in the gardens of Woburn Abbey last Friday to see The Pantaloons' production of 'Sherlock Holmes'. This new adaptation, written and directed by Pantaloon Mark Hayward, combined several Conan Doyle stories (including 'The Speckled Band', 'The Blue Carbuncle' and 'The Hound of the Baskervilles') with the usual Pantaloons mixture of pantomimic clowning and audience interaction (“there is no fourth wall!”, “Watson, stop narrating!”). It was lots of fun. There were just four actors – two playing Holmes and Watson and the other two playing everyone else. As with the wonderful Patrick Barlow stage adaptation of ‘The Thirty Nine Steps’, half the fun is in anticipating how they are going to cope with the challenges this throws up. I particularly enjoyed Holmes turning his powers of observation and deduction on a member of the audience: I suspect his amazingly accurate conclusions may have been influenced by some pre-show research with the audience member's friends and family but the little boy sitting to my right was genuinely amazed (“how did he do that?!”). And The Pantaloons are very good at planting an idea very early in the show that returns triumphantly to resolve the plot at the end. It was a very enjoyably silly evening but it was incredibly manic and overplayed (even by the standards of The Pantaloons) and I wondered whether it might actually have been funnier if more of it had been played straight.

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