Writer: Simon Reade after Arthur Conan Doyle
Director: David Grindley
Reviewer: Dave Cunningham
Sherlock Holmes has been revived and re-imagined so many times finding a new twist must be a challenge. For Sherlock Holmes – The Final Curtain writer Simon Reade steps outside fiction to take inspiration from Arthur Conan Doyle’s real-life belief in spiritualism. However, bearing in mind the very flat result, inspiration might not be the right word.
Sherlock Holmes (Robert Powell) and his former companion Dr Watson (Timothy Kightley) deal with the passage of time differently. Watson has embraced change and moved from general medical practice into psychoanalysis, records his sessions electronically and makes broadcasts on the radio. In retirement, Holmes has allowed his skills to atrophy and slid into paranoia convinced that his enemies are after revenge – and the discovery of a dead body close to his home supports this belief. Mary Watson (Liza Goddard) estranged wife of Dr Watson persuades Holmes to return to his old residence in Baker Street claiming to have seen the ghost of her late son. When his friend is incapacitated Holmes foregoes his belief in logic to hold a séance.
None of the people involved in Sherlock Holmes – The Final Curtain seem committed to the production. Sherlock Holmes is a mercurial character jumping from black depression to raving enthusiasms but Robert Powell underplays the role. There is no sense of regret or fear at the fading of once-great faculties or of regaining a sense of purpose as a new challenge arises.
Director David Grindley ignores the visual aspects of theatre until very late in the show. The initial scenes are staged in such a basic manner – with the characters and a few props in front of a black back drop- that they would have worked just as well on radio. Budget limitations frustrate efforts to emulate a magic trick and have new sets appearing after a curtain swirls across the stage; it really only works with the Baker Street set. The only real innovation in the show-an odd coda where the villain tries to cast doubt upon the solution –is puzzling rather than intriguing.
Author Simon Reade pays tribute to the source material with references to ‘three-pipe solutions’ and showing Holmes arriving for a meeting disguised as a tramp (credited in the programme as ’Peter Brollow’ which is a nice touch). Reade is aware that the formula for the Holmes stories allows the character to make lengthy explanatory speeches and tries to exploit the approach to hide clues within the verbiage. However, the speeches are rather mundane so that the clues really stick out making it easy to spot them and work out the solution to the mystery by the interval.
The merging of the fictional character of Sherlock Holmes with the spiritual beliefs of his creator sounds promising but the execution is a disappointment.
Runs until 28 July 2018 | Image: Contributed