02nd July, No Comments
By John Watson
I have lost count of the number of books, plays, films and games that purport to disclose a previously hidden fact about my colleague (shades of BBC Sherlock there) Holmes. Google has over twenty million references to such secrets – has anyone realised that Google is the ultimate commonplace book?
So when I go to see “Sherlock Holmes – The Best Kept Secret” then I know it cannot be so. When the cast list includes Irene Adler, my suspicions are aroused. Moriarty does not appear in the cast list but, apart from The Woman, he is the worst kept secret. Putting them together is therefore no surprise (the second Robert Downey Jr film did just that) and potentially a little yawn inducing.
The first few minutes of anything like this are quite a challenge for the writer. How does he (or she) introduce the characters that are so well known but maybe not from my original stories but from the latest screen incarnation – Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman or Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Lui? Some people may think I am a woman!
So here we have Jason Durr as Holmes and Andrew Hall as me – Hartbeat meets Coronation Street – but we also have Lestrade (Victor McGuire from Goodnight Sweetheart) and Mycroft (Adrian Lukis who was also in Heartbeat and, as was informed by my companion for the evening, Peak Practice, though I never warm to medical dramas for obvious reasons).
We hear of Moriarty and we actually hear Mrs Hudson but never see either of them.
So then, none of this is new, and when Adler appears (the stunning Tanya Franks who certainly eclipses many women) I am beginning to wonder why I bothered to stray from my cosy London nest this far north.
But as Act One unfolds I start to recognise this Holmes as the troubled person he became during The Final Problem and the different person that came back from The Falls. I am portrayed, as often, as the willing companion who occasionally puts a foot wrong, perhaps a little too Nigel Bruce in this case.
The writer only made one mistake that I noted. The story is supposed to have been set in the gap between The Final Problem and The Empty House but it must have been later than that. There is a reference to those words Holmes spoke to me when I was shot by Killer Evans in The Three Garridebs – “You’re not hurt, Watson? For God’s sake, say that you are not hurt! This was many years after his return from the Falls.
What was achieved though was through some pure stage magic, some clever prestidigitation that was almost worthy of the cinema and very well executed in a provincial theatre.
Three performances were outstanding, Jason Durr has a remarkable range that he used to good effect to move from lethargic to energetic Holmes (with a little madness on the way) that had elements of both Brett and Cumberbatch. Adrian Lukis as Holmes brother Mycroft gave depth to character that we see very little of in most productions (and too much of in the second Downey Jr film). Finally, The Woman steals the show, not least for her appearance in Holmes drug-induced delerium that certainly made half of the audience pay close attention.
I will not give away any of the plot except to note that it builds up through the two acts to a dramatic climax. I came away pleasantly suprised and wanting to see it again to make sure I did not miss any of the twists and turns through this intriguing plot. But it has finished its run in the North and we must now wait for it to reappear in the West End.
Posted in Plays