A Sherlock Carol
Rating: 3.5/5
Venue: Marylebone Theatre, London
Cast: Ben Caplan, Kammy Darweish, Rosie Armstrong, Jessica Hern, Richard James‍, Devesh Kishore‍. Hannah Parker‍ and Henry Proffit

Following the huge success of the UK premiere of A Sherlock Carol last Christmas, it returns to Baker Street! 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. Using his powers of deduction, can Holmes overcome his own ghosts to crack the case?

"The real mystery was the friendship we found along the way."

This victoriously Victorian mashup was my first Christmas show of the year, and it was the perfect way to start the jolliest of seasons. With some truly standout performances, A Sherlock Carol asks a question equal parts bizarre and charming: What if Sherlock Holmes was tasked with investigating the death of Ebenezer Scrooge by a grown up Tiny-Tim?

We encounter a more-cynical-than-usual Sherlock Holmes sinking on the depths of his despair after the death of his archnemesis, facing an identity crisis on Christmas eve (very relatable). Bitter and frustrated, he makes for the perfect protagonist for a tale of re-discovering the joy of life through Christmas. 

The story takes the form of a whodunnit, so I won’t go into further details regarding the plot out of fear some of our more eagle-eyed readers can cobble the clues together and discover the answer to the mystery before seeing the show! Instead, I’ll give you a list of the top five reasons why this show worked for me before offering more general thoughts.

1. The setting: Victorian London is the perfect backdrop for a story in which the only light comes from human kindness. Dreary, cold and dark, the London depicted on the stage doesn’t have the most elaborate set design but it’s still quite effective in transporting the audience.

2. A show for the five senses (and maybe even the sixth): The light design was an amazing accent to the story, and not overly relied upon, which is fairly common with shows that deal with ghostly appearances. The sound mixing playing with the stereo effects brought in the spook factor, and there was such attention to detail that a key element of smell was even brought into play! The venue is intimate enough to allow for this, and I am very glad to see the production taking advantage of that.

3. The cast: There were some brilliant performances, particularly from Richard James, who was a chameleon on the stage. His ability to nail every punchline, to hit every emotional note, and to shift from one character to the other was a delight to see. Jessica Hern’s Emma Wiggins and other characters reminded me of Natasha Hodgson of Operation Mincemeat fame.

4. Scrooge: That’s it. That’s all. He is a reason in and on itself to go see this show.

5. The mystery: This is a very faithful-to-form Sherlockian Mystery, with thrilling twists and turns. Even though at times it was easy to get a bit lost in the web of characters, it was a very satisfying whodunnit.

Overall, I think this is a very strong show to stop by on your tour of Christmas markets this holiday season, but that being said, there were some points I think it could improve on to make it an even better experience.

There seemed to be some technical issues with the microphones or the sound system when there was any singing taking place on the stage, as it was practically impossible to understand the lyrics, so I just went by context clues until the melody morphed into a song I could identify, which isn’t ideal.

In terms of the performances, I felt Ben Caplan’s Holmes was a bit out of place almost the whole way through. He comes from a stint at the Globe, and the Shakespearean monologue rhythm seems to be quite present in his delivery still, which grated against the pacing the other performers were keeping with. 

Even though Jessica Hern had some really wonderful moments as Lestrade or Fanny, her Emma Wiggins was a bit unnerving, and I doubt that was the intention. Is there any real reason why she had to be a very young child? I think the story would have worked just as well if she had been a teen, and that would have potentially spared us from the baby voice. There was a Greek choir of sorts that came and went almost at random with other members of the cast taking turns to narrate moments of the story, but the dynamic was dropped as quickly as it came, with barely any presence at all on the second act.

This show will be a delight for anyone looking for something new with the familiar feel of a classic story. It’s success is in maintaining a perfect balance between homage, inspiration and novelty, and I for one hope it becomes a staple of the Christmas line-up in years to come.

You can book tickets to see A Sherlock Carol at the Marylebone Theatre, here.

Written by Luma

**photography by Alex Brenner**

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