The Game’s Afoot

August 11, 2015 | By | Reply More

✭✭✭✩✩   Elementary but entertaining

Murrayfield Parish Church Centre (Venue 104): Thurs 6 – Sat 15 Aug 2015

There is solid, well-crafted entertainment in The Edinburgh Makars’ production of The Game’s Afoot or Holmes For The Holidays. Genuine thrills and spills are in short supply, but great pains have been taken to make a rewarding whole.

Ken Ludwig’s 2011 play testifies to the enduring popularity of the world’s first consulting detective. The story, however, does not feature Sherlock Holmes himself, instead portraying the American actor William Gillette, whose touring productions did much to cement Holmes’s popularity in the minds of the public.

A scene from The Games Afoot. Photo: Dario Dalla Costa

A scene from The Game’s Afoot. Photo: Dario Dalla Costa

Gillette was also responsible for introducing much of what is now regarded as the image of the great detective, not least the curved pipe he used, apparently so the audience could see his face better.

This is not a realistic portrayal of Gillette, however; rather it uses him as the central figure in a 1936-set, sub-Holmesian comedy thriller. Someone is trying to kill the actor, who has come to identify with his most famous character to an unnatural degree. Naturally, there will be other murders, with the action taking place at his country house during a storm. At Christmas.

As a comedy thriller, this just about works, although the whodunnit plot creaks and the humour is often in short supply. Splitting Act I in half means that it is only after the second interval that this really gets going, with the quota of farcical laughter and dramatic twists considerably increased in the last half hour.

What is impressive here is the clarity of the storytelling. If the pace is a little too stately early on, it is all commendably clear and director Dario Dalla Costa marshals his troops with dexterity. Alex Lile’s lighting and Martin Burnell’s sound are spot on, and while some of the violence and murders strain credulity, the comedy elements of the piece make this easy to excuse.

determination and verve

Derek Melon’s Gillette is a careful and dominant performance. He never quite captures the calculating, manipulative side of a character who has concealed much of what he knows from his guests, but nonetheless plays the part with determination and verve.

Jo Barrow’s Daria is a spiteful, vindictive turn as an evil theatre critic. There is something almost reptilian about her as she glides around the stage, oozing bile, but she also displays fine comic timing.

Danny Henderson and Hilary Davies, as Gillette’s oldest friend Felix Geisel and his wife Madge, are sharp and funny, being particularly strong when working in tandem.

There is a shortage of similar chemistry between the younger couple, Simon and Aggie (John Bruce and Georgia Smith), but they both convince separately.

Gillette’s mother Martha (Elizabeth Douglas) and Inspector Goring (Jan Renton) are both played as more straightforward comic roles and both work well, with Douglas in particular getting her fair share of laughs.

There are enough references to Holmes and to various stage whodunnits to keep fans of the genre satisfied, even if the play itself is short of tension. Added to the strong teamwork on display, this makes for a satisfying evening’s entertainment.

Running time 2 hours 30 minutes including two intervals
Murrayfield Parish Church Centre (Venue 104), 2b Ormidale Centre, EH12 6EQ
Thursday 6 – Friday 15 August 2015
Daily (not Sun 9) at 7.30 pm
Book tickets on the EdFringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/game-s-afoot-or-holmes-for-the-holidays
Company website: http://www.edinburghmakars.com/

ENDS

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