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Prague Fringe 2024

Sherlock Holmes: The Last Act

Fringe Management

Genre: Fringe Theatre, International, Theatre

Venue: The Museum of Alchemists


Low Down

The game is afoot at The Museum of Alchemists’ charming venue…


According to Guinness World Records, Sherlock Holmes is the most portrayed human literary character in film and television history. Many of his exploits were written about in The Strand magazine by his investigative companion and flat-mate Dr John Watson. Such was Holmes’ widespread public appeal, that when Arthur Conan Doyle killed the character off at Reichenbach Falls, some 20,000 subscriptions were cancelled. Indeed, the cult of Holmes seems to have, at least partially, given rise to the concept of fandom.

Fringe Management (Scotland)’s performance of Sherlock Holmes: The Last Act is therefore yet another portrayal. What could Nigel Miles-Thomas bring to the 23rd Prague Fringe ?

We enter the theatre space at The Museum of Alchemists to find a small stage, with nothing more than a chair and coat stand. The performance area is an archetypal side room Fringe space, which, rather than suffocating, allows Miles-Thomas to intimately tell his story. He brings to life some of the highlights of Holmes’ association with Watson, too many to list, but including A Study In Scarlet, The Pearl Of Death, The Hound Of The Baskervilles and Reichenbach Falls. We gain an insight into the flat-share and the daily peccadillos that ensue, e.g. Holmes suspects that Watson is irritated by his violin playing. Watson’s and Mrs Hudson’s patience is tested when Holmes shoots bullets into the wall. Their characters are slowly revealed. Watson, the former army doctor, invalided after his station in India and Afghanistan, finds love in the arms of Mary. Holmes is loveless, a self-confessed human automaton, with attitudes to women that jar with us a century later, citing women’s tendency to emotion and declaring that they are untrustworthy. There seems to be, however, a smouldering affection for Irene Adler, referred to as “the woman”.

However, beneath the surface lies the thrust of the show : the relationship between Holmes and Watson. While both intelligent (it is helpful here to step back from Nigel Bruce’s bumbling portrayal of Watson against Basil Rathbone’s Holmes) and fundamentally honourable men, it is not difficult to find the contrasting aspects of their nature. Watson would have been a product of a highly structured medical education ; Holmes’ methods are unorthodox to say the least. However, it is clear that they become greater than the sum of their parts together ; Holmes’ bee-keeping retirement does not provide the stimulation he craves and he fears the mundane. Holmes’ drug addiction, from which Miles-Thomas does not shy away, does not sit well with Watson.

Nigel Miles-Thomas commands the stage. He shows us the pivotal Holmes/Watson relationship, not just with language but with physicality. He takes on a variety of other characters to advance the narrative, the story-telling faultless. His pace is relentless and the hour flies past.

Holmes led a prolific, prestigious career as a consulting detective, yet the pain he feels at losing Watson is conveyed beautifully by Miles-Thomas. A story-telling masterclass, far from elementary.