It was opening night at the Fringe, and what was on offer? A veritable smorgasbord of events were available, and I opted for the Adventures of the Improvised Sherlock Holmes put on by Flash in the Can productions. It had good reviews from the Edinburgh Festival and Perth Fringe World and was a more “traditional” Fringe theatre event, as opposed to the endless array of comedians on offer.
We were waiting in line, and the players came out warmly welcomed the theatre goers, warming us up and distributing lists of titles of Sherlock Holmes stories and novels. The idea was we would read the titles and write down a suggested title of Sherlock Holmes story which would then be improvised by the players.
My companion and I opted for “The Scandalous Goat”. While this was going on, the players ushered us into our seats while keeping up a stream of entertaining patter and gathering the audience suggestions into a top hat. The performance space was a simple affair, a dark elevated platform and a couple of chairs. The venue was far from full, however to be fair it was opening night and they were competing with the Fringe street party.
I was wondering how they were going to do it, it was a tall order improvising fifty minutes of a Sherlock Holmes story with zero preparation. From the opening scenes, the players were vibrant, lively and impressively talented. It started off with a random stranger reminiscing about some lesser known Sherlock Holmes stories with Doctor Watson at a chance meeting at a Gentlemen’s Club.
“The Marzipan Conundrum” was drawn out of the hat and the players launched into a hilariously funny rendition of a Sherlock Holmes story, filled with feckless French bakers, English toffs, and sinister cockney gangsters replete with outrageously over acted accents. There was loads of comic appeal and the players were superb in their ability to improvise on the spot and have the crowds roaring with laughter.
They did have a formula to work to, with some set scenes, but it still wouldl have been hard work. When one of the players made a mistake keeping up with the evolving backstory the others would ruthlessly point it out, forcing them to back pedal furiously to great comic effect. There were some classic lines and scenes and the land lady’s crack and the nasal inhalation of marzipan fingers had everyone rolling around in laughter.
In summary it was a brilliant start to the Fringe, some classic theatrical entertainment with a comic twist delivered by some impressively talented performers. I would highly recommend checking it out, and also some of the performers’ other shows. If this performance is anything to go by they will be a hoot as well.
Fringe Review By Jeremy Watkinson
For tickets and show times for Adventures of the Improvised Sherlock Holmes head to Fringe Tix.