Review: A Study in Scarlet (A Study of…) by Vicious Fish Theatre

I remember discovering the stories of Sherlock Holmes. After years of being familiar with the character through films, pastiches and pop culture references, I sat down to watch the Jeremy Brett TV series in the 1990s. It was so unlike the character as portrayed elsewhere that I was intrigued. This Holmes was not kindly and avuncular, but sharp and difficult. His Watson was an active everyman, not a fat, bumbling dimwit. Intrigued, I turned to the source material, and was instantly hooked. I still reread the books and short stories regularly.

Robert Lloyd came to Sherlock Holmes much earlier than me, though the impact was no less profound.  Holmes has been Lloyd’s hero since the lanky actor was 12 years old. The culmination of the literary love affair is “A Study in Scarlet (A Study of…)”. Lloyd re-enacts the first ever Holmes novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, recreating key scenes from A Study in Scarlet. The story is interspersed with Lloyd’s comments on how he discovered the Great Detective, elements of the story he finds peculiar or amazing, and (particularly in the awkward latter half of the book) inspired suggestions for casting the wild west adventure part of the narrative.

Lloyd portrays all the characters of the book with deft shifts in posture and voice, so you’re never confused about who’s speaking. It’s an enthusiastic rather than subtle retelling, but the key plot points are all there and you are rushed along with the story.

Lloyd’s obvious affection and enthusiasm for Holmes is infectious, and it’s that passion that makes this show so enjoyable. The conspiratorial asides and gleeful observations pull the show together. It’s charming and wonderful to see literature praised so joyfully on stage, and the story re-enacted so colourfully. The effects are simple and sparing, using projections and lighting, and all the more effective as a result.

As someone who already loves the Sherlock Holmes stories, I enjoyed this production immensely. Its energy, sense of fun and clear love of the books communicates as a fresh approach to a character that many people think they already know. My hope is that others who only know Holmes through his much-diluted form in popular culture will see this, be infected by that passion, and go to the source, just as the show’s director, Scott Gooding, did.

A Study in Scarlet (A Study of…) is on at Son of Loft, The Lithuanian Club, 44 Errol Street, North Melbourne until Friday 1 October. Tickets online from the Melbourne Fringe website.

GaryView: The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod Book 1- Eighth Grade Bites by Heather Brewer

Gary and LissaLissa: Vladimir Tod reminds me of you!

Gary: A friendless, nerdy kid who’s beaten up by bullies and is clueless with girls?

Lissa: No! Dope. I mean a kid trying to find out the rules of vampirism who watches a lot of vampire films and doesn’t eat people.

Gary: Oh.

Lissa: And you’re not friendless.

Gary: I have one friend. And Vladimir Tod has one friend.

Lissa: You’re in a mood today. If you’re not careful I’ll have to give you a hug.

Gary: (looks at her)

Lissa: (pounces and gives him a hug)

Gary: Sorry.

Lissa: You don’t ever have to be sorry for feeling low. Life’s like that, sometimes.

Gary: So’s undeadness.

Lissa: Wanna talk about it?

Gary: … No… Yes… Um… Maybe I identified with him a bit. Except I was really good at maths and not so good at English. And I wasn’t a vampire in high school, just uncool.

Lissa: Most of us are uncool at school, and those that are cool, well they’re just faking it.

Gary: I guess.

Lissa: Trust me.  And I think you’re neat.

Gary: I think you’re pretty neat too.

Lissa: Vlad’s pretty cool in the end, too. He learns from his experiences.

Gary: All the stuff about discovering his past and trying to work out what’s going on when he hasn’t any data was ok. Some of the story happens a bit too quickly.

Lissa: It does feel rushed at times. It reminded me of Harry Potter sometimes too, doing the whole school year and having a weird teacher. I thought the characterisation was a bit light-on.

Gary: True. I liked his guardian, Nelly, but I wish there’d been more about her. His mate Henry too. And I didn’t get why Vlad liked Meredith so much. She was kind of …

Lissa: … Wet? Vapid?

Gary: No real personality. I always liked smart girls with a bit of character. Who laughed at me.

Lissa: Are you angling for another hug?

Gary: (laughs) No.

Lissa: Cos there’s plenty where that came from.

Gary: I’m aware of that.

Lissa: (grins) You haven’t yet had your usual rant about the inaccuracy of the vampire lore.

Gary: You know the drill. Some of it is fine, some of it is ridiculous. I wish the levitating bit was true. That would be handy. Especially when I’ve just washed the floor.

Lissa: They never write about vampires doing housework, have you noticed?

Gary: Even creatures of the night need a tidy house.

Lissa: (bunging on a bad Transylvanian accent) “I must go a wreak havoc in ze mortal vorld, but firrrst I must dust my bric a brac…”

Gary: “…und vipe ze vindows…”

Lissa: (giggles)

Gary: Just because I’m undead, it doesn’t mean I like grime.

Lissa: Doesn’t mean you don’t like hugs either.

Gary: …

Lissa: (pounces and hugs him again)

Buy Eighth Grade Bites (Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, Book 1)at

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