Since Shakespeare’s Compleat Works were abridged by the Reduced Shakespeare Company, similar treatment has been given to a range of original sources, with mixed results. Dan Clarkson and Jeff Turner have apparently been pottering about with Harry Potter in this antipode while I’ve been in the other one, and have now turned their attention to one of my favourite series, Sherlock Holmes.
When it comes to the still-novel-ish notion of condensing a bunch of great works into an hour’s romp, character is not king. If you wanted to engage with Conan-Doyle’s characters at all, you’d be sorely disappointed as this is really all about Dan and Jeff (and the girl who doesn’t seem to be credited anywhere). Similarly if you wanted to see any of the stories, you’d leave just as ignorant (they speak of them but don’t really get around to showing them). But for a little romp, it’ll do just nicely. These three brilliant performers maintain a giddy energy, keeping the laughs rolling both within the script and without it.
I think the concept’s days are numbered. Really, nothing quite measures up to the genius of the Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged), and ultimately these are forumlaic productions. How many times can we really take a series or theme and abridge them into a farce before it becomes de rigeur? Well, I guess Hollywood, Broadway and the West End have been doing little more than that for the last couple of decades, but it hardly makes for interesting theatre after it’s been done a few times.
Nonetheless, for the time being, this is a great formula and the raconteurs can probably squeeze a few more good ones out before the Webberesque machine drains it of life and starts selling tickets for over £100. See these guys before they transfer!