Edinburgh Fringe 2021
Three years after being killed off by his creator, Sherlock Holmes returns to solve yet another locked room mystery as the murder of Ronald Adair drags him from his self-imposed exile. As Dr. Watson picks up the mail at the rooms he used to share with Holmes, he notices a letter addressed to 221B Baker Street to himself. This begins one mystery, before it is coupled with meeting a rude book seller which brings another and leads to how he and Sherlock solve the case. By doing so they remove the threat to Holmes’ existence by avoiding the murderous attentions of the gang once belonging to Moriarty. All of this is told from the very rooms of 221B Baker Street which is synonymous with Holmes’ sheer genius.
Well directed, immaculately acted and with a script filled with faith in its source, this is a great hour to be spent in a theatre. It is theatre in what may be described as a pure form. We have the drama, the nuances of this odd partnership and the mystery which intrigues doubled with the danger of death – what could possibly go wrong?
I love the stories and so enjoy the telling of them be they the television representations from Basil Rathbone and Benedict Cumberbatch or the radio versions with Clive Merrison and Carlton Hobbes. It could be argued I am therefore already hooked and need little by way of persuasion to fall in love with the experience. But for some, the storyline and the narrative become sacrosanct and there should be no deviation from the origins – not for me. I love, for example, what was done with the Hounds of the Baskervilles in the Cumberbatch version.
But now and again, a true to the stories adaptation, reminds you of just how wonderful they are. And this is precisely that.
Both actors manage to pull off quite a wonderful affair where an hour could be had with the pipe out, the slippers on and the world dancing by as you marvel at deduction without a care in the world.
That is not to say it was faultless. In its theatricality I found the shooting scene a tad contrived and disappointing. It would have been better to use either Holmes or Watson to narrate, as this had been established at the beginning. That structure could have given their point of view in retrospect allowing the bang of the denouement more of a shock to him and us.
The end image of Holmes at the back of the stage with his syringe was a tad melodramatic too though given the gothic tradition around the Holmes stories of the times, perhaps there could have been a little more drama with up-lighting which would have heightened the effect of the pea soup London feel of the times.
But sometimes, the radical new interpretations and pushing of the boundaries aside of the world’s largest festival it is good to see a good play, done bloody well. And this play was the very thing.