The time is 8pm. Right now, the tent of ‘The Bearded Lady’s Circus of Wonder’ should be alive with music and filled with awe-inspiring acts - but the show ground to a horrific halt before it could even start.
Just one hour ago, the steam-powered generator was turned off, plunging the circus into darkness for all of 30 minutes.
The lights came back on at 7.30pm. A blood-curdling scream filled the air.
Bubbles the Clown was found dead in the lion’s cage. It is now your job to work with a team of detectives to deduce the murderer.
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Who are the suspects? We have a lion tamer, the Bearded Lady, an acrobat, a fortune-teller and the Strong Woman. Each has different links to the clown and - most importantly - a motive.
With my gin at the ready, I set up my laptop on the table in front of me and clicked on the zoom link waiting to be accepted by the host. I was both excited and apprehensive. All I knew - at this point - was the information above.
The screen lit up and I was greeted by Detective LeShart - interesting name. The rest of the audience gradually joined the call on their devices and, soon enough, my screen was filled with lots of friendly faces - both young and old - ready to solve a mystery. I could understand why a maximum of two people were recommended per device.
Distinguished Detective LeShart presented us all with the facts and evidence gathered so far before we were split into smaller groups where we had to interrogate each suspect.
One character joined our call and, between our group (around 12 screens), we had a total of five minutes to question them and start piecing together the horrific events of that evening.
Each character was unique and beautifully extraordinary; the actors’ improvisation skills were impeccable and consistent as they responded to our relentless questioning.
Notable moments would be when actors became aware of the dwindling time we had left for interrogation and deliberately began to make very dramatic accusatory statements, only to be cut off halfway through, eliciting laughter and bemused groans from the audience.
Tensions built between audience members as we scrambled to take notes and get our questions answered.
You think you know the answers? More evidence is uncovered and everything is up in the air!
‘Sherlock in Homes’ is 90 minutes of hilarious, interactive, problem-solving fun. It is a wonderfully collaborative team effort where you work together with other members of the audience to spot the inconsistencies and alibis that fail to add up.
The immeasurable thrill when you are discussing the interrogation you have just conducted with your teammates, who you did not know prior to the show, and you suddenly have that lightbulb moment of “Hold on a minute, one of them must be lying!” - it gives you a newfound confidence.
For the measly price of £12 per device, you are given an evening of entertainment where you yourself become part of the show. I would, personally, pay £20 at the very least for this experience if it meant that audience members could be split into smaller groups for the interrogations.
The talented creatives behind ‘Sherlock in Homes’ at Sharp Teeth Theatre deserve nothing short of a standing ovation for this interactive masterpiece. As the show drew to an end and it finally came to the moment of truth, an arrest was made and the zoom call was filled with applause. It was beautiful. You still feel that same elated pride as the actors return to the stage to take a final bow before the curtain drops - except, there’s no awkward shuffling out of the theatre and shivering in the cold as you make your way back to the car. You just shut your laptop screen and you are probably already in your pyjamas.
These interactive online shows should absolutely continue post-lockdown. It’s innovative, gets the audience involved, takes advantage of technology and means accessibility for those who would otherwise be unable to attend a theatre show.
I would wholeheartedly recommend ‘Sherlock in Homes’ for problem-solvers, murder mystery fanatics and theatre lovers, who want to enjoy an evening of entertainment with loved ones in the comfort of their own home.
Tickets for Sherlock in Homes are £12 per device, with the recommendation of up to two people per device for the best experience.
There are 17 performances between Friday 4 December and Wednesday 23 December. Visit the Royal & Derngate website for a full schedule of dates and to book tickets.