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Known for their large-scale productions like Alice’s Adventures Underground and United Queendom, theatre company Les Enfants Terribles (LET) thrives by immersing audiences into intricately designed spaces, not only observing, but interacting with a sensory experience as the story unfolds before them. More so than with other production styles, this level of audience participation makes their work a near impossible feat under the current restrictions on social engagement. However, LET is a company founded on innovation and have taken the challenge head-on by adapting their work for a new era of immersive theatre online.
Sherlock Holmes: An Online Adventure is an original, and highly authentic, Sherlock mystery written by Anthony Spargo and LET’s Artistic Director, Oliver Lansley: The Case of The Hung Parliament. Logging onto the experience through Zoom, we are greeted by Dr. Watson, who informs us that three members of Parliament: the Home Secretary, the Foreign Secretary, and the Lord Chamberlain, have all been found hanging in their chambers. As a group we must assess the facts, explore the crime scenes, gather evidence from locations across Victorian London, and interrogate the suspects; ultimately deciding which villain we will accuse of these heinous murders.
The paced and suspenseful introduction, with pre-recorded tapes of the suspects delivered in a vintage style, give us key information to guide our investigation and instantly set the atmosphere we are now inhabiting. As the adventure begins, unsurprisingly the group feels incredibly awkward, given that none of us have ever met. However, after a little prompting from Dr. Watson we soon start to discuss what evidence we are finding, with everyone noticing different elements, eventually getting sucked into the intrigue and bonding like a team of intrepid detectives. Admittedly, I am incredibly glad of the company, as this mystery would be a huge undertaking for one player – though not impossible.
Making use of Zoom’s various devises, such as breakout rooms, screensharing, and the chat function, the adventure keeps you feeling active. Links to external sites where you can examine the crime scenes allow you to gather evidence, some being vital whilst the rest are red herrings (and some just comical). At Scotland Yard, you can hack a computer and sift through files, or head to the laboratory and run tests to see how the victims were killed.
Whilst the full cast involved in the production do a fantastic job, with the recordings of Sherlock adding a familiar charm and a sense of dark drama, the real star of the show is our guide, Dr. Watson. Each performance features a live actor playing Sherlock’s faithful sidekick, ours is Chazz Redhead who gives a highly detailed and committed performance, his humour adding a very personal touch to the experience as he helps us to navigate our investigation.
Right from the off, the story is gripping and suspenseful, with misleading evidence making us second guess ourselves as we attempt to put the pieces together. Ultimately, I overthink my decision and as time runs out and the mystery reaches its pinnacle, we sit aghast as the whole case comes together in a dramatic and fitting conclusion.
I think we have all spent enough time online recently, in programs like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, to know that trying to keep engaged can be a real slog, but The Case of the Hung Parliament exemplifies how immersive and dynamic online theatre can be, while being accessible to almost anyone, anywhere. A unique opportunity to completely lose yourself for a little over an hour and live out a dark and twisted mystery with the original king of sleuthing. Outstanding.
Sherlock Holmes: An Online Adventure is now available as either public or private performances. Visit Sherlock Immersive online for more information and to book your tickets.