Sherlock Holmes seems to be the man of the moment. Whilst the BBC delight its audiences with the modern day Sherlock, American viewers embrace CBS’s Elementary, and both sides of the Atlantic enjoy Robert Downey Jr. as the star of the budding franchise. You’d be forgiven for thinking that Arthur Conan Doyle’s books about the Victorian detective and his sidekick could be adapted no further. But then along came Let Them Call It Mischief theatre company, which has created a new piece about Conan Doyle’s most famous literary character.
In 1930, at 221b Baker Street, things are not going particularly well. Sherlock’s drug use is beginning to spiral out of control, whilst Watson tries to sell their stories of old cases to magazines to make ends meet. When Holmes envisages a ‘perfect crime’ that is sure to make their fortune, things take a turn for the worse. Watson is aggrieved that his loyal companion could have supposedly murdered anyone, and the pair battle over moral principles, their friendship and their work.
The play, which has been smartly written by Tim Norton, seems to be his love letter to the famous stories, but also a great profile of the writer himself. Norton has created a play that captures Conan Doyle’s spirit well within his own interpretation of the characters, and yet throws in a whole bunch of Conan Doyle’s biographical facts that will delight the fanatic fans in the audience – including an allusion to his ventures into spirituality, and writings on the supposed Cottingley Fairies.
The two characters that appear on stage for all of the two hour show are lovingly played by Nico Lennon and James McGregor, as Sherlock and Watson respectively. Norton’s writing plays very heavily on the implied homosexual relationship between the two characters – evident in the original – and it provides some of the biggest laughs of the night, especially from McGregor’s slightly camp, naïve Dr. Watson who at one point proclaims, “I’m down here anyway!” whilst shining Holmes’s shoes. McGregor shines in this role: a perfect mix of comedy and sincerity in equal measure. Lennon too holds his own as a very young Sherlock, a character that the audience never quite warms to, but are yet in awe of his brilliant mind.
The set has been cleverly designed on the Pleasance’s revolving stage by Ele Slade, which showcases both the infamous 221b front door and its Victorian interior. The lighting design, though subtle, illuminates the duo’s drawing room perfectly.
What director Danny Wainwright has managed to devise is a clever, affectionate gesture to a much-loved canon of work, and its iconic author. This play is bound to thrill audiences, especially fans of the country’s most treasured detective.
The Final Revelation of Sherlock Holmes is playing at the Pleasance Theatre until 2 March. For more information and tickets see the Pleasance Theatre website.