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Sherlock Holmes – West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds

Writer: Mark Catley

Director: Nikolai Foster

Designer: Michael Taylor

Magic Consultant: Scott Penrose

Music: Grant Olding

Reviewer: S. E. Webster

[rating:3]

Sherlock HolmesWorld-premiering at West Yorkshire Playhouse this summer is the latest wave of Sherlock Holmes revival, taking the form of a new and exciting production written by Mark Catley. The script and style of production has a highly authentic Conan Doyle vibe, with plenty of mystery and intrigue and a good plot twist to conclude the play. With the help and expertise of magic consultant, Scott Penrose, there are also plenty of theatrical surprises in this production that will keep you asking, ‘How did they do it?’

The stage design however, absolutely steals this production. Highly imaginative and well thought out, the stage convincingly evolves into Victorian London streets, prison jails, secret dens and Sherlock’s living room and even a smoking river with the use of very clever revolving sets and sensitive lighting. The detail in creating each individual location is highly impressive, as is the clever use of production hands dressed in authentic 1890s costume to bring on any extra set pieces in between scenes – they blend in perfectly with the other characters, making those normally awkward set changes in theatre, entirely natural and acceptable to the audience.

The music, composed by Grant Olding, also complements the production and, like Catley’s script, has a very holmesian feel, exuding a slightly agitated and exciting sound appropriate to the play’s mood.

The acting cast is a solid one, with Jason Durr confidently taking the lead rôle as Holmes opposite the highly witty Andrew Hall’s Dr Watson. All of the actors share good chemistry, in particular, the two brothers Sherlock and Adrian Lukis’s Mycroft, whose competitive and nevertheless intimate relationship produces a great deal of comedy in the piece. Indeed, the play has great comic wit, from the sharp, disgruntled responses of Victor McGuire’s Inspector LeStrade, to Andrew Langtree’s loud and brash cockney journalist and Kerry Peers as Mycroft’s undervalued servant, Mrs Peasgoode.

However, a word of caution that the Playhouse refrains from giving. Sherlock Holmes is certain to attract a very mixed age audience, from parents and their children to pensioners and students. I would therefore highlight that parental guidance for children under-12 years of age would be wise, given that some of the material in the production has violent undertones, staging issues of drug-taking and murder, which may be distressing to some theatre-goers in spite of the comedy and the good resolution that concludes the play.

Nevertheless, this is a solid production that is well cast with some of the best staging and production design you are likely to see at West Yorkshire Playhouse this year.

Runs until 8th June 2013 at West Yorkshire Playhouse

Photo credit: Manuel Harlan

 

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