Marylebone Theatre, London – until 7 January 2023
Written and directed by Mark Shanahan, this clever show nicely combines aspects of both stories effectively – even if the production itself feels slightly basic.
What would happen if the worlds and characters created by Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle combined? Well what emerges in A Sherlock Carol is a really playful and intriguing mystery that has plenty of heart and humour to entertain audiences no matter how familiar you are with either A Christmas Carol or the stories about Sherlock Holmes.
Set three Christmases following the famous confrontation with his nemesis Moriarty, Sherlock Holmes has seemed to have lost his way – not showing any inclination to take on any new cases without a worthy adversary. That is until he meets Tim Cratchit, whose benefactor Ebenezer Scrooge has died unexpectedly and asks Holmes for help in solving the case. But in order to do so, Holmes must overcome his very own ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.
Faithfully retaining many of the aspects of Sherlock Holmes’ character and the way in which the story unfolds, laced with the distinctive narrative of A Christmas Carol, Shanahan through his script has successfully got the balance of both stories exactly right. I particularly enjoyed the way in which he used direct quotes from both books – not necessarily in where they feature in their retrospective books but at the correct point in this new story. As this is not a straight up mystery, there is also a lovely ghostly atmosphere in places – particularly when Holmes is shown his future and when he confronts one of the characters in the same room as Scrooge had died in.
While the script is lively and faithful on all counts, it does feel as though the production feels slightly basic, with very limited opportunities to showcase the different locations as effectively as it could have been done, with the way in which props such as doors being brought on for example feeling a little bit clunky. This being said, there are aspects of Anna Louizos’ set design that I did enjoy – in particular the backdrop of London that is beautifully lit, surrounded by a rustic looking frame helps to set the era effectively.
Shanahan’s production has enough pace and intrigue to it that successfully keeps the audience engaged and I enjoyed the way in which familiar characters have been brought to the stage. There is vast amount of characters (which is a common feature for both the work of Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle), all played with warmth and spirit by the cast, many of whom are having to play a number of different roles.
Ben Caplan plays a very different Holmes – dispirited and gloomy, yet still retaining the character’s ability to pick up on the smallest details (albeit reluctantly) – it is a detailed and enjoyable performance. Richard James is equally strong as Doctor Watson as well as other characters, transforming superbly from one character to the next effortlessly and making each character distinctive and interesting. Damian Lynch is also a wonderfully charming addition to the cast as Tim Cratchit, offering a tantalising insight as to the character’s change in life after his experience with Scrooge.
Well written and warm hearted, this is a great addition to the festive season – it just would have been lovely for more attention to detail in terms of the production itself which only slightly feels a little rough around the edges. But if you are looking to see A Christmas Carol done with a twist then do head to the Marylebone Theatre.
By Emma Clarendon
A Sherlock Carol continues to play at the Marylebone Theatre until the 7th January 2023.