Review: Spontaneous Sherlock

This review first appeared on the Ed Fringe Review on 20 August 2015.

★★★★☆

When Arthur Conan Doyle argued that a detective should eliminate the impossible, he clearly wasn’t thinking with an eye towards improvised comedy. Nevertheless, the performers and musicians behind Spontaneous Sherlock manage to deliver a rip-roaring riot of madcap entertainment, putting paid once and for all to the notion that improv shows on the free fringe aren’t worth the price of admission.

Before the show, a number of suggestions for titles are taken from the audience, and one is drawn from a hat to determine the content of the evening’s entertainment. Sam Irving takes the role of Sir Arthur himself, with Will Naameh and Nicola Dove playing Holmes and Watson respectively, with Eric Geistfeld rounding out the troupe, and all four swapping roles as required (including some hilarious hat-swapping as multiple parts enter the same scene).

All four are witty and energetic performers, and while each could likely hold a room’s attention on their own, the four of them together are an absolute treat. No one actor is ever allowed to overshadow the others, and when all four are on stage together it’s poetry in motion, each building on the others’ lines and assembling top-notch comedy in seconds.

Backing them up are a Victorian-style band consisting of Szymon Podborączyński, Graham Coe and Henkelpott McGurty, and while they do well enough with a few scattered music stings and whimsical backing tunes, they are not a particularly important or memorable part of the production. There are long stretches of hardly any background music, and you could be forgiven for forgetting that the show has music at all. There is a distinct sense that the band can’t keep up with the show’s frenetic pace.

The improv itself, while largely brilliant, is perhaps a little too invested in plot. There are a few moments where up to a minute is spent on expositional wheel-spinning, with the actors clearly stalling for time. The results, however, are reliably gold, so this is a minor quibble at best.

On the whole, Spontaneous Sherlock is an infectiously riotous whirlwind of a show, with an effortlessly brilliant cast and a deceptively simple premise. What’s most surprising is that, really, that’s all you need to make a great Fringe show.

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