The circus is in town – and there’s been a murder! In Sharp Teeth’s new Zoom-based show the audience make up a crew of detectives (luckily in town on a conference) tasked with finding out who killed a popular performer Bubbles the Clown. Mostly made up of smaller audience groups interviewing individual suspects, punctuated by dramatic events and votes on who the murderer is, the show strikes a perfect balance of well-plotted twists and turns, and ridiculous hijinks.
This feels like the perfect experience for someone who has always wanted to do a murder mystery party, but are nervous of having to be one of the suspects themselves. The show provides all the fun of coming up with ridiculous theories and pursuing the most tangential of clues, while all the performing is left to the professionals. And they are masterful performances; each actor adjusts quickly to unexpected questions and interrogations, with their improv credentials showing through (many of the performers are regulars in The Wardrobe Theatre’s long running improvised soap opera Closer Each Day). Each also has a sharp sense of timing allowing them to pull off a brilliant running joke where each is about to reveal an important piece of information just as their call is cut off. Particular favourites in our household are Peter Baker, pulling double duty as our guide Inspector LeShart and the catty fortune-teller Fortuna Kukay, and Eleanor Nawal as acrobat Glenda Flex, whose over-enunciated innocence is a constantly delightful joy.
The plot packs in peculiar clues and contradicting witness statements that create a web of intrigue and, as with many of the best mysteries, some of the red herrings and false leads reveal secrets just as compelling as the murder itself. Though some of the pickiest detectives may find the clues that reveal the true criminal a little too hidden under misdirection, the final denouement perfectly balances the mix of satisfaction and frustration you get from the best of detective shows – we exclaim, ‘I knew there was something fishy about them!’, and search back through what we knew to find the revealing information.
As with all experiences that rely on group audience participation, there is the risk that your enjoyment is hindered by other members of your team – I can imagine a group with either a single overly strident ‘detective’, or no one who wants to talk, would be quite frustrating. But while there is no way to completely eliminate this risk, the show is set up in such a way that it can easily trouble-shoot any issues – while there are moments for the groups to plan and discuss alone, these are always kept short, and performers are skilled at leading conversations towards the important information they need to impart.
As a second lockdown looms, Sherlock in Homes offers a lovely slice of escapism, comedy, mystery and something I never thought I’d miss until this year – talking to strangers. A set up that means you can interact to whatever level you are comfortable with, and an atmosphere of warmth and good fun mean that this feels like the perfect midpoint of watching and doing, an appealing draw for anyone experiencing either livestream or ‘pub quiz’ fatigue.
Sherlock in Homes runs until 7th November. More info here.