A Sherlock Carol review – the detective takes on Dickens in a fresh festive mashup

Marylebone theatre, London
There’s only one sleuth in Victorian London who can get to the bottom of the suspicious death of Ebenezer Scrooge, in this winning crossover mystery

This is Sherlock Holmes as you have not seen him before: there’s no deerstalker, no pipe, and he refuses to solve mysteries. “Bah,” he exclaims dyspeptically to Watson and anyone else who greets him on the day before Christmas, sounding a lot like another “humbug” Victorian bachelor.

Because this is also A Christmas Carol as you have not seen it before. Writer-director Mark Shanahan’s mashup is very well executed, taking the characters, styles and themes of both and weaving them into a yuletide detective story. There is a suspicious death (Ebenezer Scrooge’s), a missing will and a precious carbuncle tucked inside a Christmas goose.

Kammy Darweish as Scrooge in A Sherlock Carol at Marylebone theatre
A ghost of Christmas past … Kammy Darweish as Scrooge in A Sherlock Carol. Photograph: Danny Kaan

Given the glut of Christmas Carols on stage, this is an imaginative alternative with a refreshingly scrappy, fringe feel. Sets are brought on and off by actors who turn cartwheels in a multiplicity of character switches, with a wonderful central performance by Ben Caplan as Holmes. It is only the production’s gentle pace that feels off – it really could do with some revving up.

Dickens’ characters (or their scions) turn up to consort with Conan Doyle’s in a plot that takes from, and liberally adapts, the work of both writers. Moriarty is dead and Holmes is leaving detective work (“without a worthy adversary I am nothing”). Scrooge (Kammy Darweish) was a reformed man before his death while Tiny Tim has grown up to be a doctor (Damian Lynch) caring for the poor with Scrooge as his biggest benefactor.

There are delightful touches: Watson (Richard James) was the boy who fetched Scrooge’s turkey on Christmas morning; Irene Adler (Rosie Armstrong), Conan Doyle’s dominatrix, returns as Sherlock’s love interest; Scrooge’s niece (Gemma Laurie) and Fezziwig’s son (Lynch again) are having their own romance.

The plotting steers narrowly away from convolution and solves the mystery while sprinting through Christmases past, present and future to bring about an ending of carol singing and goodwill for one and all.


Arifa Akbar

The GuardianTramp

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