Sherlock Holmes: An Online Adventure review – it's so fun who cares whodunnit?

Arifa Akbar
·3 min read

This interactive sleuthing show has the punning title The Case of the Hung Parliament. With three cabinet members already hanged, there is every sign that the prime minister will be next.

Sherlock Holmes has gone AWOL and there is only Dr Watson (Ralph Bogard) to lead us – his Scotland Yard rookies – through the investigation. We are told of five suspects (an anarchist, a newspaper proprietor, a politician, a publisher and a factory magnate) and sent to the crime scenes, which resemble an animated Cluedo board.

Produced by Les Enfants Terribles in collaboration with LIVR, the show is accessed through Zoom and we are also sent links to enter online portals such as the parliamentary chambers in which the three victims were killed and Sherlock’s study. We scan the rooms for clues – newspaper reports, handwritten notes, silver trays, snuff boxes and signs that relate to the suspects, though some of this material is intricate and difficult to read.

Written by Oliver Lansley and Anthony Spargo (Lansley also directs with James Seager), the story is situated in Victorian England but there are arch references to “spyglasses” (mobile phones) and Scotland Yard’s database (Google). We are encouraged to use both in order to alight on the three Ms – motive, method and murderer.

We go to breakout rooms to question experts in forensics and detection and then the suspects themselves but these encounters are based on prerecorded material, and the only live actor is Watson. Even though we are encouraged to formulate questions to put to these people, we can only ask those already formatted on the screen. It makes this part of the show stilted and unsatisfactory, but with passions running high in our group, it does not seem to matter too much.

We are diligent detectives, at least at the start, but not natural sleuths – and it is soon evident we are just in it for the fun of group bonding. Unleashed from the strain and isolation of lockdown, we shout and guffaw. Poor, put-upon Dr Watson, who is often interrogated himself or talked over, mutes us simply to get a word in edgeways.

One among us is pregnant, and in the breakout room speaks of her food cravings. Another takes an instant dislike to a suspect because of his pencil moustache, while I muse on Watson’s possible romantic longings for the forensics expert. Another detective among us pipes up, very late in the day, with detailed and specific knowledge of the Sherlock Holmes books.

We fail to find the murderer and are scolded for it, albeit in a prerecorded message in which the murderer and motive are revealed. But even then the penny doesn’t drop for some of us and Watson has to summarise it in simpler language.

As a game, it is best for those with a love of Sherlock Holmes and a mind for sleuthing. As an experience, we have a ball, even if Watson is left rather bruised.

Available until 4 April from lesenfantsterribles.co.uk or sherlockimmersive.com.