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Edinburgh Fringe 2009

Broken Holmes

Semper Theatre

Venue: The Space @ Venue 45


Low Down

On the 150th anniversary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s death, in his birthtown of Edinburgh, there is no better place to see an irreverant farce about his greatest creation, the genius detective Sherlock Holmes. This delightful little farce is a piece of simple joy: well acted and performed, well scripted, just the right side of farcical without being too silly… A little gem of a play, ideal for the Edinburgh Festival, and a lovely evening’s entertainment. Take note of Semper Theatre, and grab a ticket before it sells out!


Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous creation, has recently become very popular again. With a Hollywood film in the making, and two/three shows at the Edinburgh Festival about him, the pressure on these groups to make their Sherlock Holmes show stand out from the others is truly on. Having seen Broken Holmes, the others must be trembling, as this is an excellent Holmes pastiche, well-written and performed, and worthy to be remembered as one of the better attempts to capture this literary giant.

The story is delightfully silly. Holmes and Watson are arguing, mostly becomes Holmes treats Watson terribly, but Watson cannot leave out of love and respect for the great man. They are soon dragged into an elaborate murder case, in which more secrets are revealed than initially thought possible, ending with a twist that puts a rather interesting shine on a particular chapter of the Holmes saga. Giving away the ending would be a terrible shame, but suffice it to say this: you will be surprised.

A huge amount of credit is due to the author/director/producer, Robin Johnson. The play is written very, very well; the wit is sharp and acerbic, the characters well-realised, the plot excellent and the rhythm well-timed. This is farce of the highest order: the timing is nigh-on spot on, and this is no mean feat. The acting is generally excellent too, although there are a couple of weak parts that let the rhythm down slightly at unfortunate moments. Watson and Holmes, portrayed by Canavan Connolly and James Bober, are really excellent, their interplay and characterisations working together brilliantly to hound the piece along beautifully. Bober is especially brilliant as the arrogant Holmes, throwing himself into the part with real gusto, while Connolly’s Watson fits the character like a glove: exasperated yet loyal. Their interchange fits the Watson/Holmes dynamic beautifully, and theirs is a partnership almost certainly worth continuing. Unfortunately, the other cast members cannot stand up to this dynamic, and have little choice but to be sidelined. This is no fault of their own, but neither Rebecca D’Souza or Patrick Spragg, as Morgana and Lestrade repsectively, have much of a chance to shine.

This is, unfortunately, the play’s main problem: it is slightly unbalanced. Holmes and Watson get so much time on stage that everything and everyone else falls by the wayside, and what seemed like quite dull acting was actual quite dull lines from the two minor characters, in comparison to the zingers given to the leads. In the same fashion, the costumes, the music and the props were sumptuous, but there was no backdrop, which would have enhanced the piece immensely and immersed the audience better.

However, these minor flaws do not detract from the viewing pleasure: they would simply have enhanced it. As it stands, the piece is a fun frolick, a farce worth seeing, and a great addition to the Holmes back-catalog. If you’re a Holmes fan, miss at your peril!