HOLMES IS WHERE THE HEART IS FOR SPOOF SLEUTHS
When: Wednesday, June 27, 7.30pm
Where: Pocklington Arts Centre, Market Place, Pocklington
Tickets: £7.50-£10 To book: Call 01759 301547
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Lippy: Maggie Fox and Sue Ryding have been writing and performing together since 1985, creating 16 original comedies for the stage, alongside a series for BBC Radio 4.
Show and tell: Productions have included Jane Bond – a female version of the famed spy – and Withering Looks, a spoof on the lives of the Brontë sisters.
Norse saga: Their forthcoming production, Inspector Norse, is a spoof on the fashion for Scandinavian crime fiction.
Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are ripe for pastiche – as LipService have found with their long-running spoof of the famed sleuths, Will Ramsey hears
T he Holmes devotees dressed in deerstalkers and capes were unmoved by the 90-degree heat of New Mexico.
But for Sue Ryding and Maggie Fox, who were touring the States with their detective spoof, it was that stillness – and an attendant lack of laughter – that was a cause for real concern.
"They were completely silent the whole way through, so we thought they'd hated it," said Sue, one half of the theatre company LipService.
"It turned out that were just concentrating very hard. Fan societies don't always make the best audiences."
They should know. Alongside that unmoved, though attentive, performance in front of the Sherlock Holmes Society of Albuquerque, the Manchester-based duo had contact with British devotees of the stories.
When, in the late 1990s, they decided to create an affectionate pastiche of Arthur Conan Doyle's books – characters included "Vesta Curry" – they were contacted by the Sherlock Holmes Society Of London, who had learnt of their plans.
Despite them being, Sue says, "quite a fanatical bunch", their knowledge proved helpful when it came to shaping the script.
And the devotion inspired by the Victorian detective – who is as loved, it seems, in Bombay as Britain – has meant their show, Move Over Moriarty, has been regularly revived over the intervening years.
"There is a huge affection for his work throughout the Indian subcontinent," said Sue, recalling a British Council tour the duo undertook to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
"There was some concern about the thought of two women playing two men, but our audiences didn't bat an eyelid. We were just treated as if we were men.
"It turned out to be quite a political thing.
"When we played at Peshawar to a crowd segregated between men and women, the audience began to mix in the interval, which is something which does not happen.
"It was revolutionary, in a way."
In Britain, the production is more likely to induce laughter than society-changing thoughts, though the pipe-smoking detective remains a guaranteed crowd-puller.
Not least, perhaps, because of the continued interest from television and the film industry in adapting the stories for the screen.
Recent years have seen the BBC's productions, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, and Guy Ritchie's comic book take on the characters for the cinema.
"It's one of those productions that always proves popular, as there always seems to be some sort of Holmes revival," said Sue.
"It has tightened up and matured over the years – like a ripening cheese.
"You find new things to include in the production, while other things are dropped because the references become lost.
"We had one character called Vesta Curry, but as it's not as popular as it once was, many audiences will not know what the reference is."
For the duo, who have produced pastiches of literary figures including the Brontë Sisters, the production remains "one of our favourites", for its physical comedy and slapstick. But their spoof, set in a Victorian music hall, does not veer far from its source.
"There is an essence of Holmes," said Sue. "It is quite true to the spirit of the books."