Review: Lawrence Leung's Part Time Detective Agency

Lawrence Leung smlLawrence Leung has built his considerable reputation on two key ingredients: a kind of nerdy adorableness and a passion for investigation that isn’t half as guileless as it looks.

From his early shows like Sucker, in which he spun a conman’s yarn with astonishing believability, through to his TV series Unbelievable, Leung has combined personable comedy with the search for underlying truths – often while toying with perceptions of reality. It makes his productions hugely enjoyable with a delightful frisson of uncertainty.

Of course, having previously admitted on these pages how fond I am of Sherlock Holmes, Leung’s latest show – Lawrence Leung’s Part Time Detective Agency – was always going to be on my list of Shows To See at the 2013 Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Leung’s fast-paced show is full of energy and geeky charm. He opens by demonstrating the expertise at his disposal for running a (part time) detective agency, from his earliest forays into uncovering great conspiracies when he was at primary school through to offering observations and plausible deductions on the reasons for differences in kissing in different countries.

A huge key to the success of this show is his live demonstration of his deductive abilities, when he chooses two members of the audience and uses a series of simple questions and his acute knowledge of body language to determine which of them is lying. The demonstration means that the whole evening is predicated on Leung’s authentic credentials as a detective. Like Sherlock Holmes himself, Lawrence Leung, the part time detective, does not rely on gadgets and scientific mumbo jumbo – he relies on brilliant mental work and the demonstrable accuracy of close observation.

Leung’s skill and knowledge are provably real, and convinced of this, the audience eagerly joins in with his investigation of an old mystery – the true culprit behind a prank perpetrated on him at one memorable birthday party.

There are plenty of Sherlockian references, as well as other nods to geek culture while keeping it inclusive and friendly. You can’t help but like him, and to willingly join him in trying to solve this most mysterious of puzzles.

I won’t go into details – spoilers, sweetie – but I can say that Leung is not merely likeable, not merely adorkable – he is smart and genuinely clever. He is also (and being a comedy festival this is the clincher) very, very funny.

See Lawrence Leung’s Part Time Detective Agency at The Swiss Club, 89 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, during the comedy festival until 21 April 2013. ($24.50 to $29.50) Get your tickets online.

(The video on the booking site showing Leung inviting BBC’s Sherlock Holmes to the festival is a treat in itself!)

Other Holmesian links