Edinburgh Fringe 2019
It is just after the death of the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A great believer in spiritualism, Doyle’s widow, Lady Doyle brings together a gathering to celebrate the end of his life and hold a séance to bring Doyle back to his audience of followers and fellow spirit world believers. Interrupted by the arrival of his most famous creation, Holmes himself, we are taken on a fantastical discussion between sceptics and believers.
Much has been written about Doyle and his fantastical belief in the existence of an after life and so forth. We know that his widow, desperate to prove that he was right in believing in fairies and life beyond death held a public séance that drew thousands to hope for his message form the other side. It is ripe for theatrical exploitation.
The script does not deliver quite that but the confrontation between Lady Doyle and Holmes is an interesting one. He is clearly the sceptic, she the utter believer. He is trying, through observation to catch all of this claptrap out; she is just wishing for an open mind and willing audience. We are joined part of the way through by a medium who goes through her act whilst being observed keenly and not without scorn, by Holmes.
The ability of each actor to keep the accents up, the connection to their performances and the momentum faltered a few times. They had a keen sense of the piece but there were times when they struggled a little to connect the lines to their actions. Nonetheless they always managed to get the momentum back and there were moments of clear joy. I liked the interplay towards the end between the duo as they saw out their argument. The finale was where we got Holmes at his best.
Both actors came to the piece with clear characters in mind. Whilst I would not have expected a Rathbone or a Cumberbatch or even a Johnny Lee Miller, Holmes was for me, too panicky and less at ease with himself than imagined by many who have an intimate knowledge of the work. What that did do though was theatrically to give that role to Lady Doyle and she filled it admirably.
There was little by way of theatre arts apart from the costumes which were great.
Directorially I would have had less of Holmes going into the audience and the section with the medium was a little less than convincing. Some work with Holmes perhaps interacting without the medium’s knowledge would have added to the irony.
There were some very nice touches with the audience and it is some time since I sang a hymn – much though I remembered why I didn’t like it, it brought authenticity.
This was a good wee piece that will develop and bed in over its run so is worth a visit once it has.