sat 17/04/2021

Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Hung Parliament review – choose-your-own whodunnit | reviews, news & interviews

Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Hung Parliament review – choose-your-own whodunnit

Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Hung Parliament review – choose-your-own whodunnit

Playful interactive show casts audience members as amateur detectives

Killer Zoom: Richard Holt as Sherlock Holmes Les Enfants Terribles

I’ll admit, I’ve never been a fan of murder mysteries. Patience is not one of my virtues; if I can’t work something out in 30 seconds, I’m liable to give up, and whodunnits tend to need a bit longer than that.

I’ll admit, I’ve never been a fan of murder mysteries. Patience is not one of my virtues; if I can’t work something out in 30 seconds, I’m liable to give up, and whodunnits tend to need a bit longer than that. Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Hung Parliament was, therefore, a lovely surprise: well-paced and earnest without taking itself too seriously, it’s a new interactive experience from Les Enfants Terribles, the company known for madcap, immersive work like their 2016 Olivier-nominated Alice’s Adventures Underground (which returned the following year). 

Don’t be fooled by the Zoom meeting – we’re in Victorian London, and three members of the Cabinet have been found hanging from nooses in their offices. Scotland Yard fears the Prime Minister is next. Suicide has been ruled out, and five suspects assembled. The trouble is, they all have plausible motives, from being snubbed for a peerage to disagreeing with the Foreign Secretary’s European alliances. So who did it? You have 90 minutes to work it out, with the help of your fellow participants. The Case of the Hung Parliament is charmingly interactive; like most things, it works best if you throw yourself in. The reassurance that you don’t have to walk out of the venue with the people you’ve gone through the experience with works wonders, as does the knowledge that nothing’s really going to go wrong if you make a mistake. And my group of intrepid amateur detectives made many, many mistakes. Miranda Heath as Ms Grey in Sherlock Holmes: An Online AdventureAs usual, Dr Watson is the conduit between the audience and the story. He’s played by the only live actor, wrangling groups of four to five participants over Zoom with the help of an off-screen Mrs Hudson, so it’s essentially a one-person show (there’s a range of genders represented in the Watsons team sheet). Chazz Redhead, the Watson I encountered, keeps just the right side of irony, a twinkle in his eye as he guides us through virtual room-searches, a tense discussion with forensics expert Ms Grey (Miranda Heath, pictured above), and interviews with cagey suspects. Sherlock (Richard Holt) is away on another case, but he Skypes in every now and then to remind us of the urgency of the situation. Those who don’t consider themselves fans of the Establishment may wish to pretend to care that the Prime Minister could be assassinated at any minute. 

The story is intricately woven, at times overly so, with dense detail scribbled on scraps of paper hidden in the shadows of the virtual rooms. Les Enfants Terribles should have made a clear decision on whether to allow participants to look details up on their “spyglasses”, as Redhead charmingly refers to smartphones. He offers some little nudges, but ironically, the experience was so immersive that I clean forgot it was 2021 and I could Google things. An older member of our detecting squad was going through a very good-natured tech crisis, which provided an interesting subplot. Will we get to see her face? Will she realise her microphone picks up everything she says? Endless drama.

A still from Sherlock Holmes: An Online Adventure showing a nooseReader, we did not solve the riddle. Which didn’t really matter, thank God – Watson seemed a little disappointed, but his estimation of our cognitive abilities had surely declined significantly by that point anyway. Sherlock popped up again at the end, prowling along a dingy corridor (now there’s a killer Zoom background) and explaining the solution as if it were patently obvious. Well, when you put it like that… It did make perfect sense, but still seemed tricky enough to give most amateur sleuths a run for their money. You have to pay close attention, and maybe not spend so much admiring Holt’s truly astounding level of dedication to authentic Victorian facial hair. Learn from my mistakes.

The experience was so immersive that I clean forgot it was 2021 and I could Google things

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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