Sherlock Holmes and The Invisible Thing – Review

sherlock holmes and the invisible thing

There are elementary ground rules to writing a whodunnit whether it’s a pastiche of Conan Doyle’s Victorian detective, Sherlock Holmes, or a baffling episode of TV’s modern sleuth Jonathan Creek.

We’ve all watched Sherlock and been perplexed, amazed and astounded by the plot. They’re preposterous, outlandish and far-fetched. Yet, if studied under a magnifying glass, their logic and plotting is faultless.

Playwright Greg Freeman has created a new thriller for the stage called Sherlock Holmes and the Invisible Thing which opened this week at London’s Tabard Theatre and, for fans of the genre, it isn’t half bad – until the denouement.

The first act builds the mystery and suspense nicely. A body has been found in a lake. The victim is horribly disfigured, clutching a pearl in his clenched fist and there’s a key to a bear collar in his pocket. A witness says that an invisible thing pushed the man into the lake.

sherlock holmes and the invisible thing

And then there’s the nun and a missing father, with a murky past, who were also found dead in suspicious circumstances, an alcoholic witness and a housekeeper with an incredible talent.

“A baffling murder in the lake,” smirks Holmes with relish. His attention is piqued. All the makings are there for a classic night of skulduggery and detection.

Invited to help solve this Kentish country house mystery, the inimitable Sherlock Holmes and his faithful lapdog, sorry, sidekick, Dr Watson, arrive to discover that the homeowner, the unstable and unsteady Lucy Grendle, has a history with the sleuth.

Can he put behind their past to find out who is haunting the house, who the mystery drowning victim is and which diabolic invisible thing was responsible for his murder?

And therein lies the problem with Sherlock Holmes and the Invisible Thing. Freeman sets up the story, throws in red herrings and suspense – plus quite a bit of comedy – and then finds himself having to come up with a solution to the crime worthy of the great Conan Doyle.

There are suggestions of sex slavery, child paedophilia and a running gag (which is actually quite funny) about the local plod, Inspector Peacock, having a propensity for “self pleasuring” (giving himself away by the stains on his shirt cuffs…eugh!).

sherlock holmes and the invisible thing

But his solution to the case is so ridiculously ludicrous that even hardened fans of the genre will be spluttering with amusement. It’s never a good idea to make your chief suspect invisible because trying to come up with a reasoned explanation is..well..beyond reason.

Alex Mann captures Holmes’ idiosyncratic personality adding a dry wit to his other skills as a master detective while Richard Fish makes an engaging and likeable Dr Watson.

I’d like to have seen more of Dan Maclane’s perfectly pitched pantomime plod, Inspector Peacock. Squeezed into a too small suit, he is everything we expect from a bumbling, clueless, cockney copper who trails in the vapour of Holmes’ brilliance to solve the crime.

Faith Edwards gives a nuanced performance as housekeeper Mrs Rochester while Saria Steel’s vodka-swilling Lucy seems too modern a woman for the period (but this may be down to Ken McClymont’s direction).

No-one can match the plotting of Conan Doyle (or even Jonathan Creek’s brilliant creator David Renwick) and, in all honestly, Freeman doesn’t come close.

It’s impossible to see the perpetrator but the far-fetched Sherlock Holmes and The Invisible Thing makes for an entertaining evening.

Sherlock Holmes and The Invisible Thing runs at The Tabard Theatre until July 16.

Review Rating
  • Sherlock Holmes and The Invisible Thing
3

Summary

It’s impossible to see the perpetrator but the far-fetched Sherlock Holmes and The Invisible Thing makes for an entertaining evening.

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