What better way to celebrate the 150th birthday of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle than with three likeable loons from LA?
By CLAIRE PRENTICE
RICHARD MARITZER, VINCENT Cardinale and Shelby Bond are in the bath. The bath is in a friend's apartment in Los Angeles and, in case anyone is wondering, their modesty is protected by the generous addition of bubble bath. Still, it's hard to look the handsome young Sound & Fury trio in the, ahem, eye.
"It started out as a joke," says Maritzer, the company straight man, of the idea of conducting interviews for their Fringe show, Sherlock Holmes and the Saline Solution, from a bubble bath. "But then we just liked the idea so we decided to go with it ," adds self-appointed company clown, Bond.
The show, minus bath, has already won plaudits at the Adelaide Fringe, carrying off the audience's 2009 People's Choice Award. Its arrival in Edinburgh coincides with the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle, though the company confesses that is by coincidence rather than design.
"We decided to do a Sherlock Holmes show not because we're huge fans of Sherlock Holmes but because everyone has heard of him. He's so universal," says Bond.
Sound & Fury are well known for taking a classic text and making it their own, from their 2008 hit Fringe debut Cyranose to Testaclese and Ye Sack of Rome, which they are also performing in Edinburgh, at the Free Festival, and which one reviewer described as the "love-child of Monty Python and Dr Seuss".
The job of researching Sherlock Holmes and the Saline Solution fell to Maritzer, who swotted up on Conan Doyle's stories and set to work on a plot which, while not based on an original story, would include key characters Holmes, Watson, Inspector Lestrade and Moriarty. It also had to be flexible enough that the performers could change it each night, ad-libbing according to whatever each performance throws up, often at the suggestion of the audience. And it had to allow for song, dance and comedy aplenty.
"We like to take a well-known story or character and modernise it," says Maritzer.
"We get a little risqué and infuse it with a bit of naughtiness," adds Cardinale, with a wink. "It's not what you think, though. It's much worse."
Aren't they afraid their reinterpretation might upset the purists?
"We're quite looking forward to the reaction of the purists – we like hearing that sharp intake of breath as we spear their favourite character," says Cardinale.
"We're so charming that usually we win people over," adds Bond.
Maritzer, as ever the voice of sanity, adds: "You can only do this kind of mocking if you really love the work and the character."
Speaking of mocking, the trio slip into English accents of the sort not heard since, well, ever. They explain that Monty Python was their inspiration. "For some reason the British love it when we make fun of them. Our British accents are terrible and we apologise in advance for them," says Bond.
Maritzer and Bond met when they were both performing at a Victorian fair and, realising they shared a similar sense of humour, soon started working on scripted shows together.
Bond mentions a blow-up doll. Maritzer and Cardinale elbow him in the ribs and Bond lets out a shriek as a rubber duck falls into the bath, splashing bubbles and water everywhere.
Maritzer continues: "We're using minimal props – you can only carry so many props with you over the Atlantic. But we're very nicely costumed. We play lots of different characters so there's lots of bad wigs, ridiculous accents and cross-dressing. We do it in a vaudeville style. There's a loose plot but it changes every time we do it. The only thing that stays the same is that it starts with a murder and Lestrade calls Holmes and Watson in to investigate. "
"It's a rather complicated, convoluted mystery and by the end of it people don't really care if we solve it," adds Shelby.
After hearing horror stories of theatre companies going bankrupt, Maritzer, Bond and Cardinale thought long and hard before making their Fringe debut last year. But they were pleasantly surprised, winning a string of glowing reviews and a posse of groupies.
What are they looking forward to most about coming back? "Irn-Bru. I like it. It tastes like sweet rust," says Bond.
"It rained for all 28 days we were there last time. So some better weather would be nice," adds Maritzer.
"The Royal Mile," they all shout simultaneously. "It's so great being in a city where so many people go to the theatre. We live in Los Angeles, a city full of actors and you could not get 12 people to go to the theatre. "
With that it's time for Sound & Fury to get out of the bath and get dressed. Grabbing a towel, Bond whispers conspiratorially: "The reviews last year bolstered our egos and our love lives. We are all single right now, for the first time ever. We could all be in for a very interesting August."
• Sound & Fury's Sherlock Holmes and the Saline Solution is at the Gilded Balloon Teviot, Edinburgh, 5-31 August. Sound & Fury's Testaclese and Ye Sack of Rome is at Laughing Horse @ The City Cafe, Edinburgh, 7-30 August.