A Scandal in Bohemia at the Tristan Bates Theatre


Silliness abounds in this energetic and good-natured all-female version of  ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’. From the moment you enter the theatre you are made to feel welcome, as you are offered a drink and a pie by Mrs Hudson. The actors interact with the audience and joke with each other, setting the tone for the show ahead.

While the play brings in all the crucial elements of the original story, it is not afraid to pepper it with references to previous cases and to disrupt the flow with occasional nods to the ridiculousness of modern day politics (well who could resist, these are crazy times we live in). There is a light-hearted and rambunctious feel to Francesca De Sica’s production. As well as having written and directed the piece, she is also an hilarious Dr Watson, who seems to struggle to take anything too seriously, including our egotistical Holmes. Her hilarity is at times contagious.

Elizabeth Appleby is perfectly cast as our self-confident Sherlock Holmes, revelling in his sense of superiority,  even as he is confronted by Mrs Hudson about his attitude towards women, in the very appropriate form of a Punch and Judy show. For those who are very familiar with the Sherlock Holmes stories, there is a richness here, as his behaviour across various cases is hauled into the light to demonstrate his deep-rooted misogyny. Very fitting given this is the story where we meet “the woman” aka Irene Adler. It is after all Sherlock’s tendency to under-estimate women that is the weakness she exploits to best him (should I put a spoiler alert here? Or are we now all so familiar with the different Sherlock Holmes stories, that it’d be up there with saying the Titanic sinks?)

There is something engagingly sinister about Katharine Blackshaw’s Mrs Hudson, often a menacing Vaudevillian background presence, it is a lot of fun to see her presented in this way. She is more Mrs Lovett then devoted maternal figure, and you are left wondering what happened to Mr Hudson. I’m glad I opted for the veggie pie.

Princess Donnough is a spirited Irene Adler, as well as jumping in to fill a variety of other roles with great exuberance (with the exception of Elizabeth Appleby as Holmes, the rest of the cast at the very least double up on parts). Laura-Jean Richardson brings an enjoyable hapless, self-importance to the role of The King of Bohemia, providing a perfect foil for the mischievous Watson.

The self-deprecating tone of  this production adds to the humour, as all involved are clearly aware of the silliness of it all. For those who take their Sherlock Holmes very seriously, this might be upsetting. However, if you want a really fun night out, where a familiar story is treated to an inventive and, at times, hilarious make-over, Struts and Frets Theatre Company’s ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’ may very well hit the spot.

‘A Scandal in Bohemia’ runs at the Tristan Bates Theatre until Saturday 2nd November.

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