When lockdown first started I (among other people) was concerned about how I would entertain myself for a long period of time while not being able to go outside at all. As a group of friends, we tried the classic zoom pub quizzes and video call drinking games which were great fun but it was very difficult to do activities outside of the immediate friendship group. A few years ago I partook in a murder mystery party with my local youth club which had me taking on the character of a double-crossing German/English spy. The night had in wearing a suit, interacting with other characters inside a decorated hall complete with theatrics for when the murder occurred. This was fantastic fun and the theatre of it was just amazing! I loved the murder mystery themed night and since then I have wanted to do another one but it’s a struggle at the best of time organising an event like that at the best of times never mind in the middle of a pandemic but Sharp Tooth theatre has managed to pull it off flawlessly. The thing that initially pulled me into this show (apart from it being a murder mystery) was the name. ‘Sherlock in Homes’ which is a brilliant choice of name. As someone who loves literature but is also an avid pun appreciator, I think this was an amazing name that also ties perfectly into the nature of the experience which was fantastically clever!
Before the call started we were sent an email containing all the information about the evening such as how to join the zoom call. Also in this email was a perfectly designed case study which set up the crime scene, gave a small description of each character and a map of the circus where the crime took place. They had put a lot of effort into designing these case studies to transport viewers into the world that this crime took place in which is a nice touch to the evening. The idea of production value was something they held tightly on to the whole way through as the performers were in characters stayed in character the whole time they were on the screen (which I imagine must have been incredibly difficult as they are essentially performing to a camera), great costume selection and fantastic use of backdrops/props to keep up the illusion. I recently saw a production over zoom where the performers simply used their living room as a backdrop which while I understand the practicality of this, including themes backgrounds added to the experience of this show.
While most people would think it is simply using zoom as a broadcasting tool, the creative team behind this project had embedded it deeply into the structure of the show so much so that it made sense for it to be done in this format rather than in person, whether there are lockdown restrictions in place or not. The call itself had us split into small breakout groups which random other people within the call where our purpose was to interview potential suspects. Despite initially not being sure of what our purpose on these smaller groups were, we were supposed to develop some form of interrogation from when the suspects appeared. The transitions from the large call with Inspector LaShart to our smaller groups was flawless with a simple click of acceptance from an invite that appeared on the screen which I know wasn’t something created by the theatre company but still worked excellently. When it came to deciding who we all thought the murderer was we had to vote on a poll which again came into our screens seamlessly which again was great. Instead of zoom being used simply as a way to showcase the performance it was made a vital part of the show. Also breaking news information was passed through a notification so it truly felt as if it was a discovery the team had made through the investigative process.
The highlight in this performance were all the insanely talented performers, which sounds like such an obvious thing to say, but every single person showcased a high level of performance skills throughout. Not only had the character decorated the performance space and donned appropriate costumes, but they also had to constantly improvise and communicate with the general public who were asking questions about motives and relationships etc. If it was me in this production it would take me a few minutes to think of answers to the interviewer’s questions that made sense to the story and was also in character but this group of performers did not hesitate to respond in the most perfect way which is a very difficult skill to have. The actors had me howling with laughter throughout and showed an immense awareness of their character which helped keep the audience which the storytelling world they desired. My personal favourite was Inspector LaShart whose main purpose was to inform people (again) as to how the evening will function and to fill in gaps in the evening such as waiting for everyone to join the main large group call etc. This character was so wonderfully over-the-top classic English inspector who again was totally hilarious but stuck to the character constantly.
Overall, this was a meticulously well-thought-out show where every detail was developed and planned to make for a fantastic viewing experience. From explaining why such a large number of detectives is being used on the case to the wonderfully designed case studies, the team has thought about everything within this show which was fantastic to see. While I enjoyed the opportunity to chat with random strangers about the case in our smaller breakout groups, I think the experience would have been made that much more fantastic if a group of friends all came together and did it as one big group (which is possible as they do offer services for private parties.) I would also recommend that people who are interested in taking part in such events do so through a laptop/computer as I used my phone and I felt I missed the some of the production scale and some of the immersive elements were scaled down due to the size of the screen I used. I can honestly say that this is one the best zoom based productions I have ever seen and the team behind it have considered every possible detail about the show (including providing everyone with a super handy guide to generally zooming) which was amazing! Every performer was incredibly talented and shocked me with how quick and dedicated to their character they were. This show is so deserving of the five-star rating it is getting from me and I recommend this show to EVERYONE but especially theatre kids who love an element of production value!