The original stories of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson may be over 100-years-old, but they’re just as popular today as ever before (if not more so). The recent successful television series’, Sherlock and Elementary, are just the tip of the iceberg of recent adaptations of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, and just when the small screen seems to be leading the way in showcasing the investigative duo’s adventures, in come Tacit Theatre presenting its new version of A Study in Scarlet.
Written by Lila Whelan and Greg Freeman, A Study in Scarlet is a faithful adaptation of the novel of the same name. Known as the first book in the series, it serves as an introduction to the characters of Sherlock and Dr Watson as they begin their crime-solving together whilst we see the pair come face-to-face with some murderous Mormons that have travelled from Utah to Victorian London.
There’s a rather typically-Holmes set that we’re invited to walk through to get to our seats, detailed with those objects synonymous with 221b Baker Street: science experiments, a comfy armchair, and a whisky decanter, all loving designed by Katharine Heath. The intimate black box theatre holds host to the small cast of seven; although some clever multi-rolling is used to create many more characters.
Director Nicholas Thompson has used the intimate space to the best of its abilities, and Leo Steele’s clever lighting design highlights the actors nicely. One of my favourite images came from the close of act one: Sherlock standing silhouetted as he plays his infamous violin, a trait we all know and expect to see of the world’s only consulting detective.
The smug and erratic Sherlock is performed with great energy by Philip Benjamin. He is similarly matched by Edward Cartwright’s slightly loose, but comical Dr John Watson, who injects some much needed light-heartedness into the evening.
There should also be a particular mention for Holly Ashton and Stephanie Prior, who not only delight with their portrayal of the female roles, but similarly charm the audience with their musical skills. Elliot Harper, Rhys King and Paul Lincoln, who all double up on contrasting characters, also contribute to the evening’s musical interludes with some fine characterisations.
Whilst not only a fine adaptation that is sure to delight Holmes fans, it is a great evening to showcase just how to fill a small space with such a delightful, relevant story with considerable talent.
A Study in Scarlet is playing at Southwark Playhouse until 12 April. For more information and tickets see the Southwark Playhouse website.