“Treachery, turmoil, tweed!” a mantra sounded on your average night out in east London and a perfect epigram to Morphic Graffiti’s The Revenge of Sherlock Holmes! One of the last surviving Victorian music halls, Hoxton Hall rattles and shakes with the brashly comic performance of a company intent on pumping life back into the 19th century boards.
Channelling the Victorian spirit of the venue the performance is certainly rough at times with some hastily improvised music from the live band, a few minor set collapses and some fluffed lines, most of which actually adds to the charm of the production. The cast is so winsome that not only are they forgiven but encouraged to flail around a bit while keeping the revenge plot going.
It’s a story that Arthur Conan Doyle would appreciate, crammed full of intrigue, innuendo and irony all adding up to an appropriately wry homage to the Holmes writer. Watson, played by John Cusworth and sporting a terrific yellow suit and perfect moustache, is a fantastic foil to Tim Walton’s Sherlock who plays his role well although at times does not quite maintain the gravitas of the original detective. Andrea Miller playing the dame somehow manages to channel both Miranda Richardson’s Queen Elizabeth and June Brown’s Dot Branning and the entire cast deserves more than a nod for the sheer level of fitness required to proudly stomp around the stage while keeping enough breath to bellow out the musical numbers.
These songs are certainly unique and while at times the slower numbers drift away the raucous ones triumphantly thunder through the hall. A hilarious duet in a morgue followed by the singularly best cockney rhyming slang themed song I have ever heard intoxicate the audience and are surely a much better use of the musical form than many West End shows seem to manage.
The company certainly does not seem to need the budget of such shows either. The costumes cannot be faulted and have been clearly put together with much craft. They are paraded upon a wonderful set with plenty of appropriate trap doors and the play is eminently enhanced by working around such a ramshackle and distinctly Victorian stage. Reviving the old music hall without simply parodying the 19th century content it once held is no mean feat, but for such a loud and proud cast, enjoying themselves and their sources, it is certainly elementary, my dear readers.