“Professional quality improv done so, so right.”
If you’ve never read the collected works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle while drunk, I wouldn’t recommend it. Intricate plotlines and skilful writing become an impenetrable morasse after a few strong drinks – which is all the happier, then, that the collected works of Eric Geistfeld, Will Naameh and Dove bear no such weakness.
Improvising a raucous (and often marvellously nonsensical) Sherlock Holmes mystery in the somewhat cramped underbelly of Canons Gait, Spontaneous Sherlock’s Monthly Mystery is immediately worthy of its considerable praise. Of particular note were the considerable musical talents of the accompanying string and piano band (Bramwell, Coe, McGurty and Podborączyński), whose bouncy and dynamic tones lent a cartoonish energy to every scene they graced with a trill.
Scenes, it should be added, which in the hands of any other group would have been wasted. The Spontaneous Sherlock team took the strange suggestions to even stranger places – and what we got was a mystery involving a lollipop that turns people into weird monsters, Doctor Watson’s obsession with rulers and more latex-mask reveals than a Mission Impossible retrospective. But despite the madness and seeming incohesion, the show never lost its hold.
And that perhaps typifies what I liked so much about Spontaneous Sherlock. From the very beginning, I was taken aback by how complete the entire performance felt for an improvised show; from the upbeat, ambient music to the deliciously over-the-top physicality, the level of polish and cohesion between what could have been disparate components utterly shone. This is professional quality improv done so, so right.
And, of course, that’s due in very large part to the considerable comic talent on display. Between Dove’s command of melodramatic ridiculousness, Geistfeld’s mastery of deadpan and Naameh’s utterly sublime line delivery, you’d be hard-pressed not to be immediately charmed. And despite the completely ridiculous plotline they pieced together, the show never felt like it got lost in itself. The ending was oddly satisfying and certainly more clever than most other long-form improv performances I’ve seen; both inside Fringe and out.
However, as with all improv of this type, there are weaknesses. Despite the often feverish energy present on stage, certain segments dipped and stalled noticeably in pace as the actors worked out where to go. Whilst that’s always to be expected, and it hardly affected the show as a whole, it was still a jarring crack in what was otherwise a pristine production.
This is certainly an event which lives up to its own hype. It’s not often that I mark a show in advance on my calendar, especially if it’s one I’ve reviewed before; but if you’re planning on attending next month’s ridiculous mystery, you might have to fight me for a seat.
Reviewer: Jacob Close (Seen 22 October)
Visit the Other archive.