Sophie Willan: Novice Detective (2 stars)

This article is from 2014

A mish-mash of theatrical narrative and comedy skits at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Sophie Willan presents a theatrical hour about the search for her estranged father. The detective genre is her theme, and the opening set-piece is a campy nod to the genre from Inspector Clouseau to the board-game Cluedo. After a promising opening, Willan sets the tone for what she expects from the audience over the next hour: uninhibited participation. Not even those in the back row are safe from her probing torch beam. With ‘volunteers’ in place, what follows is a mish-mash of narrative and skits padding out the short story of what happened with her dad.

The concept is a nice idea but the few parts of the show that engage with the detective tropes (like her chalkboard of accumulated clues) are tantalisingly brief. Some of the elements included at the expense of noir trappings are bewildering, such as an over-reliance on references from Casablanca and some physical prop comedy with a scarf. Her hectoring of the audience participant provided initial laughs but with diminishing returns.

The result does not make use of the genre’s potential and instead lands between pathos and humour, giving neither a chance. Half-baked rather than hard-boiled, the only mystery here is what to make of this disjointed hour.

Zoo Pleasance, 662 6892, until 25 Aug, 12.15pm, £8 (£7).

Sophie Willan: Novice Detective

  • 2 stars

Sophie Willan tells an unbelievable true story of how she and her slightly psychic Gran found her long lost father.


1. Michele Paule15 Aug 2014, 12:47pm Report

Couldn't disagree more. The show's move from genre comedy to personal revelation is its strength, as it takes us from a child's fantasy wish-fulfilment to the young woman's aceptance of reality. The audience participation worked too because she gave us a heroine whose drama was not fully in control, ohich added to the comedy and the pathos. I found it more entertaining and satisfying than the general run. I'd heartily recommend it.

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