An unlikely Christmas crossover
Returning for a second visit, Mark Shanahan’s cunningly devised Victorian mash-up is back to delight and intrigue fans of both Doyle and Dickens’s work and spread a little festive cheer this Christmas. With a dose of mystery and a dash of indulgence, this is a perfect alternative to the swathe of traditional Christmas Carols or pantomimes on offer this year.
Sherlock Holmes and company have been transplanted into the world of Dickens’s novel, some decades since Scrooge was visited by three spirits triggering his change of heart and subsequent generosity. But it is Scrooge’s turn to play spirit, having been apparently murdered and it is down to the infamous detective to crack the case whilst managing personal demons of his own. A myriad of familiar characters grace the stage from Inspector Lestrade and Irene Adler to the Fezziwigs and a grown-up Tiny Tim.
The puzzle that Shanahan has concocted is splendidly captivating, the love for Doyle’s source material apparent and obvious. The case follows neat avenues and sidesteps so that Ben Caplan’s Holmes is always the smartest man in the room and we are brought along for the intriguing ride. The script is peppered with charming nods and winks to the beloved characters but by the fourth or fifth declaration that ‘the game is a foot’ some of the charm does begin to wear a little thin. The crossover feels surprisingly natural as the worlds blend and Shanahan is able to draw neat parallels between the two characters of Holmes and Scrooge that will satisfy even those who cry bah humbug at this unusual premise.
Most of the cast take on multiple roles to deliver the tale, switching neatly between recognisable and new faces with the aid of Jess Richardson-Smith’s costume design and Abbie Leigh Willetts's wig work. Jessica Hern offers a stand-out performance with her multitude of characters, the bumbling Lestrade particularly excellent. Ben Caplan is confident as Sherlock, the beleaguered character battling with the ghosts of his past, the recent demise of his nemesis Moriarty forcing him to question who he is. Caplan nicely accents the detective’s struggle to be likeable, the cold exterior concealing his inner workings so that justice is always the priority. As the recently expired Scrooge, Kammy Darweish has a joyous turn bursting out of windows and startling Holmes, now in a role reversal, he is the one sharing the wisdom that altered his outlook all those years ago.
Whilst this is a wholly jolly and quaint Christmas treat, some areas do lack the needed polish to propel the production any further. Moments of singing are a little lacklustre and become lost behind John Gromada’s pleasant original score and the pace, particularly in act two slumps significantly before recovering and rattling towards the mostly satisfying conclusion. In all an appealing and likeable production for those after something a little different this Christmas.
Running until 7th January - Tickets
Photography - Alex Brenner