BWW Reviews: THE FINAL REVELATION OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, Pleasance Theatre, February 12 2014
Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson are two of the most enduring characters in English culture and I'm afraid that they have to be in order to survive this rather confused and confusing re-imagining by Tim Norton.
It's 1930 and the pair, with their best sleuthing days behind them, are on their uppers with Dr Watson rummaging through old files seeking to write up the juicier cases and flog them to the The Strand magazine and Holmes nonchalantly feeding a growing cocaine habit. The two bicker like the old married couple they are in all but name, with plenty of "By Jove, Holmes" and even an "Elementary, my dear Watson" bobbing up in conversation, as Holmes' final intervention in the criminal underworld is slowly revealed.
But, unlike the famous stories, it just doesn't add up. Both actors look about 25 rather than 55 - not an uncommon occurrence in fringe theatre, but their appearances jar repeatedly with the dialogue and the world-weariness of both men. Holmes is also encouraged to dance with a debutante to kick-start a moribund social life - an unlikely eventuality at the character's age, if not Nico Lennon's, the actor portraying him. There are also knowing glances at the audience whenever Dr Watson's flowery language topples into a double entendre, James McGregor channelling his inner Panto Dame - which is simply distracting. And it's so very long - two hours of two men talking and drinking port in a drawing room needs a helluva script to carry the day. There are some good lines, of course, and the odd moment of slapstick comedy, but the laughs are rather thinly spread as the talking continues.
So there it is - ironically something of a mystery itself in terms of the play's structure, tone and casting. Comedy is notoriously subjective and maybe I just didn't buy this curiosity - audiences might solve its riddles better I did.
Photo credit - Daniel Swerdlow