SHERLOCK HOLMES – THE LAST CURTAIN: Simon Reade.
Theatre Royal: Tkts 0115 989 5555 www.royalcentre-nottingham.co.uk.
Runs: 1h 50m: no interval: till 9th June.
Performance times: 7.30pm, (Matinees 2.00pm Weds and 2.30pm Sat).
Review: Alan Geary: 5th June 2018.
Fond homage to Conan Doyle and his characters. Beautifully crafted.
It’s 1922. We’re in a studio at the new-fangled British Broadcasting Company. Following a pompous weather forecast, delivered of course by a man in evening dress, a Dr James Watson begins to read his latest story, about events which have only recently concluded.
The body of a woman dressed as a man has been found on the Sussex coast. Two problems: she’s been foully murdered; and, more intriguingly, she’s on the property of an ex-detective who’s retired there to keep bees and pursue fly-fishing, a certain Sherlock Smith.
The action that follows would be compelling as a stand-alone thriller. But it’s also a vehicle for fond homage to Conan Doyle and his characters, good natured and delicate satire, and a less than delicate swipe at the craze for spiritualism that followed the Great War – and in which Doyle himself was caught up.
Performances are a joy to behold. Liza Goddard is an impeccable Mary Watson. And Robert Powell, bringing out all the self-absorption, depth and complexity of Holmes, is on top form. But in important respects Timothy Knightley’s Dr Watson steals the show. Watson is an ageing bumbler, but brave and warm-hearted with it. And he’s also, like Holmes, made a figure of real pathos.
There’s also great pleasure to be had from Simon Reade’s masterly dialogue. But for a couple of sad lapses into EastEnders-speak: “What’s that supposed to mean?” (both from Holmes), it’s bang on Conan Doyle himself.
Scenes, including a perfectly dressed 221B Baker Street, are divided by a single opening and closing curtain to suggest the period; and for background, some striking piano and strings chamber music is totally in keeping.
A gripe. Just when you think the play’s over there’s a kind of epilogue which some will appreciate for the final twist it facilitates. But it’s badly out of kilter with the rest of an otherwise beautifully crafted and satisfying play.
Sherlock Holmes: Robert Powell.
Mary Watson: Liza Goddard.
Mycroft Holmes: Roy Sampson.
Dr Watson: Timothy Knightley.
Miss Hudson/Rose: Anna O’Grady.
Detective Inspector Newman: Lewis Collier.
Director: David Grindley.
Designer: Jonathan Tensom.
Lighting: Jason Taylor.
Sound: Gregory Clarke.