Sherlock Holmes – The Case of the Hung Parliament

Reviewer's rating

The Home Secretary, the Foreign Secretary, and the Lord Chamberlain have all be found hanging in their own chambers. Each victim died on their birthday, and on that day had received a card with a mysterious quote written in it. But what does this mean? Where’s Sherlock? And what will you do next with 75 minutes left to solve the case before the murderer strikes again? In this production, you the audience member, join up to 5 other audience members to assist Dr Watson to solve a mystery within 80 minutes.

Art that can be enjoyed remotely as much as in-person has been a feature of life in the pandemic. Theatre companies have stepped up with performances that people can enjoy from the comfort of their own homes through streaming live and recorded performances. Pandemic aside, a genre of dramatic performance which has become increasingly popular in recent years is the role-play experience, whereby you the audience contribute actively to the performance. Your actions and contribution affect the outcome. In the real world,’ these productions take place at live venues, but in lockdown, this format has been adapted very successfully for virtual, online production. Several households can meet up via their own computers, and enjoy a truly creative experience. In a way, it’s like a video game, where you the player are central to the game’s progress, as opposed to a theatre production, a film or tv drama, where you the viewer watch passively.

In this production by Les Enfants Terribles, I teamed up with other audience members to help Sherlock’s faithful friend, Dr Watson, solve the mystery of why cabinet ministers are being murdered on their birthdays! The next victim is the Prime Minister (oh no!).

My team was a mix of adults and younger people, and we worked in pairs.

Without giving too much away, I will try and describe what took place. We were taken (virtually!) to the victims’ chambers, where they had been found. We had to look around each room to find clues. We shared the clues with Dr Watson and had to investigate further, conducting searches of the virtual Scotland Yard’s computer files, and conducting forensic analyses. Throughout this process, we had the guiding hand of Dr Watson but didn’t meet any other cast members until much later, when we had to choose which of the suspects to interview. The suspects’ responses were pre-recorded, so we asked questions, and a pre-recorded response was given back. I chose Walter Erwin to interview because he had a moustache and looked a bit dodgy to me! After this questioning, the audience had to meet up in one of the rooms in which a murder had been committed, and combine our evidence. We then had to deliberate to choose who we thought was the murderer, and take a vote. Were we right? That’s the question. And remember, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth” (Sherlock Holmes speaking in ‘The Sign of Four’ by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

The production was very well thought through. The company had gone to a lot of trouble with the virtual set to put you in the centre of the action, which I really appreciated. The characters were well acted and well thought out and stayed in character, so despite the limitations of the zoom platform, it felt very immersive like the best video games can be.

I thought the age rating was sensible. It takes a certain amount of maturity to work with other team members of a wide age range, and a certain amount of knowledge to be able to contribute meaningfully.

My one criticism is that it would have been nice to have been given a little bit more time right at the end to un-pack the story when deciding who the murderer was. It felt a little rushed. If the time could be extended to 90 minutes it might make it even better!

This was really good entertainment. It wasn’t supposed to address the serious issues of our time (apart from the possible quality of our government!), and it didn’t try to. Good! Having fun in a pandemic is sometimes quite hard to do, and in its own way, it is important.

This was great fun, and intellectually stimulating, meeting up with other people and working together to solve the case. I got a lot of satisfaction out of it, and would definitely do it again. If you’re a fan of crime and whodunnits then I would absolutely recommend this to you. It will also appeal to gamers who enjoy this kind of interaction with a game and working in a team with other players. And if you’re not, I would say give it a go. Try something a bit different!