Everyone knows that Sherlock Holmes is the greatest detective ever. And what better way to acknowledge this than to see him in a brand new play, written by Mark Catley and directed by Nikolai Foster? It was time to investigate.
Upon entering the West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Quarry Theatre, I was greeted by one of the most interesting sets I’ve ever encountered in a stage production. It seemed as if the rust and grime on the leaflet advertising the play was a reflection of what was on stage; it was ominous, mysterious and gothic, very much like the Victorian London we’ve all heard about. When the play got going, it was clear that the set designers had seriously thought it through; I was impressed by the attention to detail, particularly in Sherlock’s home. The fire in his fireplace was always burning bright, representing the tension that gradually built up as the play went on. I could definitely be the next Dr Watson, right?
The transitions between the scenes were incredibly smooth as well, accompanied by lighting changes and energetic, suspenseful music that made you sit on the edge of your seat, eagerly awaiting the return of the characters as they unravelled the growing mystery. And to increase the mystery, the lighting was there to help; shadows were cast all over the stage when the characters were figuring all of the secrets out, representing the themes of intrigue and secrecy, which nicely tied the scenes and characters together.
But the jewel in Sherlock Holmes: The Best Kept Secret’s crown has to be its characters. The titular Holmes, played by Jason Durr, was just as you’d expect him to be, charismatic, inquisitive and determined. His sidekick Dr Watson, played by Andrew Hall, was equally inquisitive, often being the more comedic of the two. But what about the other characters? We can’t forget about Holmes’s short-sighted brother Mycroft, the most intelligent man in the world, played by Adrian Lukis. Mycroft’s odd mind often brought comedy into the mix, making him an instantly likeable character. We can’t forget about the mysterious Irene Adler either, played by Tanya Franks, and her attachment to Sherlock, which was something I enjoyed watching develop over the course of the show. The Journalist, a rather humorous and wacky character, played by Andrew Langtree, was also another comedic part of the cast. His determination to thrive on Sherlock’s old and glorious stories made him one of those awkward characters that you didn’t know whether to trust, helping to create suspicion and deception within the play.
The only character I didn’t fully connect with was Inspector Lestrade, played by Victor McGuire. I didn’t feel as though he belonged to the world within the play, and didn’t fully show a lot of emotion throughout the performance. Perhaps it was an artistic decision, but nonetheless, Inspector Lestrade was certainly a memorable character.
A favourite moment of mine was during a scene between Watson and Holmes, in which they search Mrs Peasgoode’s body in a rather unusual way. While I don’t want to spoil it for you, I will say that it certainly offers up a grisly slice of Victorian pie. Yum.
The play as a whole was one of the most interesting pieces of contemporary theatre I’ve seen this year; it continuously kept me guessing and had me on the edge of my seat as secret after secret was unravelled, including the one in the title. And, although I can’t tell you what the secret of the play is, I can tell you that this play shouldn’t be kept a secret.
Sherlock Holmes: The Best Kept Secret is playing at the West Yorkshire Playhouse until 8 June. For more information and tickets, see the West Yorkshire Playhouse website.