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Home arrow Archive: Earlier Fringes arrow Archive: Edinburgh 2011 arrow Max and Ivan Are Holmes and Watson
Max and Ivan Are Holmes and Watson
Published on Monday, 22 August 2011

4 stars

Pleasance Courtyard (venue website)
3-15, 17-29 Aug, 3:30pm-4:30pm
Reviewed by Craig Thomson

 Recommended for age 12+ only.

A portentous voice-over (really, it was just Ivan) announces at the start of the show: “Due to injuries sustained in a professional wrestling bout, Max Olesker will today be played by Max Olesker... with a broken ankle.”

Yes, Max Olesker (a genuine pro wrestler) and Ivan Gonzalez are the mad geniuses behind the event of Edinburgh 2011, The Wrestling.  A one-off spectacular and a hot ticket, The Wrestling is already attracting a Woodstock vibe - every comedian in Edinburgh seems to have been there that night.  Luckily for the rest of us, the two are also the mad geniuses behind Max and Ivan are Holmes and Watson.

Conan Doyle revivals are currently fashionable, and the pair bring their trademark brand of high-energy sketch comedy to the tales of Sherlock Holmes.  It's the sort of concept that makes you think: “of course!”  Physically, they are a good fit – Olesker is in the strange-faced mould of Benedict Cumberbatch, while Gonzalez (shorter, rounder, hairier) is closer to the classic Nigel Bruce than, say, Martin Freeman or Jude Law.

Olesker remains surprisingly mobile with one good leg and two crutches, and the wrestling injury does not detract from the performance.  It even adds a little fourth-wall-breaking charm, of the “look at me, dancing around, on me two good ankles” sort.  When not ad-libbing at Olesker's expense, the two run through a tightly-crafted script with impressive pace.  The show is packed with narrative flourishes: multiple, sometimes nested flashbacks, and a knowing four-way Mexican standoff featuring five characters and two actors.

The only downside to the affair is the slightly too high-concept story.  The action moves from the streets of Victorian London to the skyscrapers of prohibition-era Chicago, for no seemingly good reason.  It opens up new character (and new voice) possibilities – Al Capone features, as do a parade of gangsters and molls – but they also try to shoehorn in familiar Holmesian creatures.  Professor Moriarty, now recovered from his tumble at the Reichenbach Falls, is played as a sinister Michael Jackson impression, it seems.

No matter: Max and Ivan must be the pre-eminent sketch tag-team currently performing at the Fringe, and Holmes and Watson will only help cement that perception. 

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