Potted Sherlock…what to say? 60 plots, 80 minutes, 1 giant challenge for the “Potted” boys. If you’ve been to one of their shows before, you’ll know what to expect. If you’re a confused tourist, like the man to my left, or a serious Sherlock scholar eagerly awaiting a new take on the Conan Doyle canon, you might not know what to expect. And be warned, you scholarly types may not be the target audience for this show.
Happily, that’s not us. We love the kind of (apologies for using this word) madcap humour and geeky references that define a “Potted” show. With so much material to cover, you’d be forgiven for thinking that there would be little time for hesitation, deviation or repetition. Turns out there was actually little time for the plots – the countdown on the side ticked through the 60 stories at a breakneck pace, with spoilers being thrown around in a River Song-baiting manner. That took up about 10 of the 80 minutes and the rest was dedicated to pure raucous fun, referencing everything from the Spice Girls to “The Princess Bride”. Occasionally, there was even a reference to The Cumberbatch, whose performance pales in comparison to the definitive Sherlocks of Jeff, Dan and Lizzy. Or they would be definitive if they could ever agree on who got to be the detective.
Hold on there – who’s Lizzy? Well, you may well ask. The boys have got their very own Carol Cleveland. I seem to remember there being an actual girl towards the end of “Potted Panto” but I was never 100% convinced it wasn’t just Dan in a dress (he makes a very alluring Irene Adler in this production). Now, Lizzy is a permanent part of the team and with it she brings a jaunty walk, pianist skills and a love of Chris de Burgh. A valuable addition.
I don’t want to give too much away, because I, like the painting, am not a fan of spoilers (luckily I wasn’t planning to read the Sherlock series anytime soon). Actually though, there will be a lot that’s different every night as they riff off each other, turning stage mishaps into improv opportunities. I loved the impromptu “Sound of Music” argument although I have to say that the mountains at the end of the film lead to Germany, not Switzerland. A severe misjudgment by Captain Von Trapp, I’ve always thought…
That’s what makes this show so joyful – the mix of onstage hysteria, brilliant adlibs and the occasional piece of well-rehearsed snappy dialogue (“My sister, frightened, came to me” “Is she still frightened?” “No, she’s dead” “Well, she was right to be frightened”). As ever, there’s a real affection for the source material, although sometimes you feel that they’re missing Harry Potter. Apparently, Jeff is too old to play a schoolboy now…has he never watched “Glee”? They’re all about 40! Sorry, now it’s me that deviating. It must be catching.
Anyway, the script mixes clever gags with incredibly basic ones, in the fine Christmas panto tradition. Reuben is still giggling about the “oui oui” joke from last year. I think he would have liked this too, but a lot of it would have gone over his head and he might have been a bit scared by the hellhounds, vampires and poisonous snakes that fill Sherlock mysteries. Even if the hellhound was particularly unscary. So we might have taken him, but quite frankly we fancied a theatre trip without the kids. And this is perfect date material – unchallenging, enjoyable and face-achingly entertaining. Don’t see it if you are expecting suspense – some books get dismissed in a line. Do see it if you want the most frantically funny show in the West End. It was so riotous it could not have been more rioty. Oh hang on, forget I said that last bit. Beware the Reichenbach Falls.
In the pub afterwards, we considered what they could possibly “pot” next. My favourite idea was Bond – I’d love to see them recreate epic car chases on a budget (but the invisible car would be easy enough to do). They also have the perfect Bond girl now – someone who’s sexy, feminine and just a little bit dangerous. He could even re-use the Irene Adler costume…
Disclaimer: I received free press tickets for “Potted Sherlock” in exchange for the review. All opinions remain honest and my own.