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Sherlock Holmes Strikes Back

Wednesday, 17 August, 2011

The Wireless Theatre Company at Camden Fringe

The Wireless Theatre Company is a slightly odd idea, a company that creates audio plays in the manner of the BBC’s Radio Four, except that they are recorded (live sometimes, as this one is) and made available for download via the web. They also do sketches, comedy stories and other stuff, all available for download to listeners’ iPods and MP3 players.

So, what we have here is a line of microphones, rather than a set, and four actors who principally use their voices to get the effects they are striving for. The one exception here is a sword fight, when a knife and fork get banged together to simulate the action.

In this particular instance, that doesn’t really matter – we’re in the realm of comedy here and not high drama, so whether you listen on squeaky headphones or the surround sound experience that I’m sure we’re all used to at home doesn’t really matter. You would worry a little though about production values for something more serious.

But serious this isn’t. It is a spoof Sherlock Holmes story: actually a double spoof, because it’s supposed to be a recreation of a Sherlock Holmes story from the second World War, when all kinds of historical heroes were called upon to do fictional battle with the Nazi foe.

The four performers are Peter Davis (Sherlock Holmes and others), Matthew Woodcock (Doctor Watson and others), Laura Marshall (Mrs Hudson and others) and Panny Skrivanos (the villain, Baron von Fuscus and others), all of whom conspire to return us into something like the atmosphere of an old BBC comedy recording of somewhere around the 1950’s.

Accents are cranked up to the maximum, upper lips are rigid, and it is all rather agreeable and English; if something like ‘I’m Sorry, I Haven’t a Clue’ is what you listen to regularly, then probably you’ll enjoy this.

There isn’t too much in terms of plot, which has something to do with a Chinese box. The villain who should have fallen over a crevasse in the opening scenes, somehow gets revived to live through to the denouement an hour or so later, and its all punctuated with spoof advertising for a fictional sponsor called Patriot Gin.

The audience on this particular night seemed to enjoy themselves though, with plenty of laughter about Sherlock Holmes other brother – not Mycroft, but Barratt – and at the fact that Doctor Watson, recreated as rather keen on the opposite sex, makes a pass at a woman who turns out to be Holmes himself in disguise.

All of the cast drop in to the atmosphere of gentle silliness, and while nothing here is earth-shatteringly original, to watch (or to listen) is like putting your slippers on in front of the fire – all very reassuring – and you’ll keep up with the plot if you want to do the ironing as well.

You could listen for yourself to this: go to www.wirelesstheatrecompany.co.uk for details.

Cast: Peter Davis – Sherlock Holmes, Mr Martell, Ted Quack; Laura Marshall – Greta Gruber, Mrs Hudson, Susan Hills; Panny Skrivanos – Baron Kurt von Fuscus, the Government, Announcer, Cockerney; Matthew Woodcock – Doctor Watson, Barman

Director – Philip North; Producer – Mariele Runacre Temple; Sound – Tshari King; Lighting – Gareth Brown

Reviewed 16th August 2011

© Michael Spring

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