There’s nothing quite like an attraction with a long winding queue to dampen ones adventurous spirits and make one mildly cranky. The only thing worse in fact is to stand in said queue for twenty minutes and then have a member of staff approach to inform you that you need to leave the queue in order to buy a ticket in the shop. This is precisely what happened to me when I went to visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum in Baker Street. I can tell you that when I finally re-joined the queue from the very start, I was somewhat aggrieved, things went from bad to terrible when I suddenly realized I needed the toilet. I was now well past mildly cranky and into the nightmare realm of Grump Hog Day! So if you go, remember before you join the ginormous queue, go to the gift shop next to the entrance as that’s where you buy your ticket. Having groaned on a fair bit and hopefully elicited some small sympathy; allow me to get on with my review which is only slightly tinged by this considerable trauma.
The Sherlock Holmes museum is a delight. I’m a huge fan of Holmes and have very fond memories of reading the books at school during my formative years. Like my trip to the Harry Potter studios, I found myself experiencing childlike wonder on entering a place so familiar to my imagination. Each room in this museum is beautifully put together with lots of small references to the books. One cannot help but think that Holmes and Watson did once reside here solving baffling mysteries in Victorian London. My favourite part of the museum is an inconspicuous book on the top floor. It contains letters to Holmes from all around the world that have been sent to 221B Baker Street. One or two were artistic, some had fictional mysteries, and my favourite from Gao Kun in China implored Holmes to give up his cocaine habit for the sake of his health. I have no doubt that a fair few of these letters are the result of teachers and there confounded homework assignments. Nevertheless it is absolutely astounding to see first-hand the joy a fictional creation can exert in the world.
The Sherlock Holmes Museum, is tiny, a little overpriced at £15 a ticket, and comes complete with a deadly queue. However despite all these detractions, as a huge fan I think the decision of whether to go or not is elementary my dear reader.
I’ve always thought that there’s something quintessentially English about the murder mystery, the medium lends itself so well to a certain mild mannered stereotype that is to be found on this quaint little isle. I’m not sure why but there’s just something about a group of stuck up, incredibly polite chaps and chapesses who do nothing all day but make jam and mow the lawn, that screams murderers. Incidentally Agatha Christie’s most famous novel was the only one that didn’t surprise me. For me Sherlock Holmes is the ultimate incarnation of the formula. In this Victorian setting I often feel that the mild manner of many of the characters acts as a defensive foil in exploring an unnerving era of constant scientific change. Holmes is a frightening figure who sees and knows all, the Victorian equivalent of Google, but the people he interacts with, particularly Watson, allow us to appreciate the wonder and hope of the age. Suffice it to say I love this genre, so when my best friend invited me to a murder mystery run by the company ‘A door in the wall’ early last week, my answer was an indubitable yes.
My best friend and I arrived one fine evening at the ominously named Dead Dolls House on Upper Street, to attend a wedding reception held by the mysterious and venerable Blight family. No sooner had we been admitted, than we were taken aside by the best man who asked us to make some inconspicuous enquiries among the guests and investigate some mysterious goings on. The mechanics of the game involved a notebook and a few clue stickers that help you introduce yourself to specific guests. Once you’ve completed set tasks with each guest you get more stickers to introduce yourself to other guests. There are nine stickers in total, each divided into groups of three which relate to a specific question. On completing all the sets the idea is that you’ll be able to uncover the Blights secret. Lastly there is a time limit with the game coming to an end when the wedding commences. I must admit at this stage that after a tedious day of toil I was more than a tad grumpy. In this situation dear reader it is an adventurer’s solemn duty to soldier through until the unwanted chemicals messing with your mind abate. That, or you could just go home. Once I got into the flow of things I was soon having a complete whale of a time. As I found myself experiencing a bonkers series of events which involved among other things, hen parties, religious cults, safe cracking, lessons in the art of seduction, psychiatrists, and stamp collecting.
I had borrowed a stylish black hat for the evening and was accompanied by a giant Pina Colada in my hand as I raced about this pub that concealed a fiendish deed. At the time I felt the hat and cocktail gave me a 1970’s ‘Starsky and Hutch’ vibe, though upon reflection I suspect I probably just looked like an idiot. All the actors who brought the story to life were absolutely fantastic and not once did they waver in their enthusiasm as they imparted their clues to us (no doubt for the umpteenth time). The puzzles themselves were of moderate difficulty but coming after a hectic day were more than enough to confound and entertain the old noggin. Despite the uniqueness of each character interaction the underlying plot was fairly easy to put together and the unraveling of each clue brought a great deal of satisfaction. The geek in me couldn’t help but feel that I was walking around a real life video game. The only complaint I have about the event is that it was overbooked, with a few too many teams leading to the odd situation at times of being in a long queue to speak to someone who keeps repeating themselves. Although I must admit that this has also been my experience at family weddings, so points for realism. Still I was very annoyed that before the night ended, I didn’t get to interact with the puppet master who looked positively psychotic. The grand finale of the event was the wedding itself, it was at this stage that the actors involved really got to shine as they put on a fantastic performance that revealed my best friend and I’s suspicions. Ultimately I felt the night was a complete hoot and I had a bloody good time.