Sherlock Holmes is a wonderful character, and Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is a fantastic story, so combining these two things should work. And it almost does in A Sherlock Carol. But not quite well enough to be completely satisfying, and the weak points that slow everything down and get rather convoluted and confused are a shame when there’s so much promise in the idea.
That’s not to say that A Sherlock Carol, written and directed by Mark Shanahan, is a bad play – it’s absolutely not. For a couple of hours, you’ll be transported to Victorian London, and you’ll follow Sherlock around as he takes on the role of Scrooge – meeting ghosts and solving crimes, all the while slowly but surely thawing out and turning from a mean spirited, somewhat broken man into a joy-filled one who finally understands what Christmas and friendship is all about.
It’s pleasant and fun in parts, but it never quite reaches laugh out loud territory until Ebenezer Scrooge (played wonderfully by Kammy Darweish) appears, and that’s not until the very end of the first act. At that point, the tempo changes, and the slow pace becomes frenzied, with jokes aplenty, some fourth-wall breaking, and, of course, a murder being solved. Sort of. I won’t give it away.
Ben Caplan as Holmes is convincing and entertaining, and his gradual change as he gathers more gifts from the various people he bumps into in his investigation is plain to see yet still low-key enough not to be too on the nose, which made for a lovely realisation at the end of all the changes that had come about.
Other cast members were just as strong, with particularly fun turns by Jessica Hearn as Lestrade (complete with huge fake moustache) and Richard James as a rather panto-dame-esque housekeeper with a secret and a penchant for chocolate cake.
If you love a bit of Sherlock Holmes and you have a fairly decent knowledge of the canon and mythos surrounding the celebrated detective, you’ll probably unlock a good few Easter eggs hidden (or not so hidden) in the story of A Sherlock Carol. If you’re not such a fan, things could get a bit tricky, with characters and storylines that link back to other things – things that, if you’re not aware of them won’t make much sense. Some parts are slow, some characters are confusing, and the final payoff doesn’t really make much sense. But as a piece of fan fiction goes, it’s a fun frolic on a wild goose chase that offers up a few laughs and a Christmassy feeling on a cold winter’s night.