Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary detective Sherlock Holmes is in just about everyone’s consciousness, so it isn’t surprising to see plenty of Sherlock-themed shows at the Edinburgh Fringe. It’s a genre of its own – and there’s plenty of variety. On that note, I got the chance to review Music Theatre Warwick’s Holmes for Rent, a devised musical about everyone’s favourite sleuth.
Holmes for Rent revolves around a new story involving Sherlock’s trusty sidekick Dr John Watson. He opens, accompanied by a pianist stage left, with a speech labelling Sherlock is a fake, purely a character he invented to hide the fact that he is actually Sherlock. However, the pair’s arch nemesis Moriarty is creeping about the theatre, and it isn’t long before the two are forced to defeat him.
It’s a fairly compelling and original narrative. Throw in some playful songs, witty banter and shockingly-bad-but-hilarious puns, and you’ve got Holmes for Rent. The show takes some getting off the ground, but once things properly get underway, you gradually become absorbed by the comedic portrayals of Doyle’s characters and Music Theatre Warwick’s fresh, original take.
But while the sentiment behind the production seems solid enough at first, something doesn’t feel quite right as the performance goes on. The reason for this is because of the way the whole show is structured, and how the performers interact with it. Scenes blur into one another, and storytelling throughout gets messy, with some scenes feeling rushed and unfinished as the performers seem to race through everything.
Further to this, the show feels unpolished at times, and you’re not quite sure where it’s going to end up – indeed, the company heavily promotes the fact that no two endings of the show will ever be the same. But rather than an air of excitement as a result of this, there’s an air of uncertainty hanging over the production, and the performances sadly don’t reassure the audience that everything is under control. This leads to a loss of laughs and disengagement from the otherwise well-written songs and enjoyable displays of playful ensemble work.
Holmes for Rent certainly offers something different to the other Sherlock-themed shows out there at the Fringe this year, and Music Theatre Warwick must certainly be commended for devising such a fresh piece of theatre. While it is a shame that things feel unfinished and rushed at times, Holmes for Rent is well worth a look during your visit to the Fringe.
Holmes for Rent is playing at C Main until August 29.