This is my second show at The Shelley within a few weeks. My friend, Helen, who accompanied me, hadn’t been before – but it is charming, rustic, rough and ready, with unplastered walls – a work in progress. If you haven’t been before, then I recommend that you do – at least once – you may find it addictive.
I could say much the same about the Black Cherry Theatre Company, though in this case neither of us had been there before either. I didn’t know quite what to expect. I read their resumé, I read the eProgramme*. It seems that they are mostly an improv. company – in fact they are doing improv. at The Shelley on Friday … but this purports to be a scripted comedy spoof of a Sherlock Holmes mystery. Hmmmm! Go compute! Is it an improv. or is it a play? I hesitate to suggest that it will be the exactly the same tomorrow – but at least parts of it will be.
The blurb mumbles something about 20 characters but, due to an Equity dispute, there are only 4 actors to perform them all. That’s only partly true <grin>. The precise roles are not elucidated in the eProgramme but, I can exclusively reveal, that the undervalued and mostly confused Dr. John Watson is played by Jonathan Davis, while Ollie Blake, Mark Haines and Holly Spillar affect a variety of accents and characterisations and have a riot of fun (as do the audience) portraying Holmes, Blind Man, various railway people, sundry yokels, a policeman, a postman, Mr and Mrs Fetchmore and various members of the Montacute dynasty.
Holmes aficionados, such as I, will recognise the references to the mystery of The Hound of the Baskervilles but don’t be fooled – Stapleton and his sister (whoops – spoiler there) make no appearance and the only ghostly hound is purely in the imagination of the sound effects supervisor (uncredited).
In between and among the questions of whether Holmes is going to drink all of that water, whether Fetchmore is going to eat all of that lettuce and why does the whisky taste gritty is – what is the significance of the “Lamb in the Bag”?
The set and props seem to consist of a door, two chairs, a faux window, a Dartmoor sign, a cloth bag (with or without lamb in it), a small table, some antlers, a portrait, a smaller portrait frame, a revolver and a barrel containing mostly lettuce (so it seems). Apologies to any set items that I have inadvertently omitted. This is the only theatre show that I have ever seen make use of the cinematic conventions of ‘flashback’ – don’t worry, they haven’t really ‘lost the plot’ and started again.
If you enjoy improv. spontaneous humour, farce, Monty Python, parodies of well known genre – then you will enjoy this. The performances are flawless, the script, such as it is, is engaging and amusing. It succeeds in being politely and inoffensively entertaining and humorous. There is nothing not to like, unless you really want a serious solution to “The Mystery of Montacute Hall”.
My friend, Helen, gave me two favourable quotes: “Remind me not to clap while holding a glass of wine!” and “There was no point at which you wondered ‘what time is it?'”
It runs again tomorrow (Thursday 12 September) and again on Saturday 14 September. I recommend it.
*(The eProgramme is available as a downloadable PDF: www.blackcherrycompany.co.uk/productions)