The Arthur Conan Doyle Appreciation Society (3 stars)

Feel-good show mixing broad comedy strokes with narrative tomfoolery

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The Arthur Conan Doyle Appreciation Society

Doyle is the father of arch-rationalist Sherlock Holmes yet he also believed fervently in the supernatural. Peepolykus play these two opposing worldviews against each other in a feel-good show that mixes broad comedy strokes with narrative tomfoolery and a little bit of chin-stroking, to delightful effect.

Written by Steven Canny and John Nicholson and performed as a three-hander by Nicholson, Javier Marzan and Gabriel Quigley (all excellent, Quigley’s harrassed academic is note-perfect) the action switches between the scripted play and enacted episodes from Doyle’s life and Sherlock’s adventures, with plenty of stock comedy tropes – slapstick, actors swapping roles, unrequited love – and enough knowing meta-narrative nods.

Holmes’ stock is undergoing a meteoric resurgence thanks to some high-profile screen adaptations and, while TACDAS benefits from some familiarity with Doyle’s output, prior knowlegde is not essential. Rather, the reality of Holmes and his creator is so fascinating that too much trivia can distract from Peepolykus’ comedy onslaught. Painting from a wide palette of comedic tricks, combined with engaging onstage chemistry, the result is immensely funny.

TACDAS is another attempt at a Christmassy show that isn’t a pantomime and isn’t for children. In a genre that’s usually all about delivering the warm, nondenominational fuzzies, the production’s treatment of the issue of charlatan mediums preying on the emotionally vulnerable seems discordant and threatens to derail the pacing.

This show is at its best – a hilarious, quirky, jubilant best – when the fun train is allowed to run full steam ahead without any pesky questions about deeper meaning.

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 22 Dec

The Arthur Conan Doyle Appreciation Society

Traverse Artistic Director teams up with physical comedy specialists Peepolykus and writers Steven Canny and John Nicholson to present a riotous Christmas show about the creator of Sherlock Holmes and the collision of spiritualism and rationalism.

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