THE SUPERNATURAL ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Garrick Theatre, Lichfield 16/07/11
I am always wary when told a play has no interval. It’s like they don’t want the audience to make an escape. Yet, a Holmesophile from way back, I settled into my seat, anticipating good things. Only a few months earlier in that very studio I had enjoyed Ha Ha, Holmes! – also a three-hander.
Sadly, this show suffered from too much narration and barely any action to speak of. Holmes and Watson recounted three of their famous cases, each with a supernatural bent, to Watson’s simpering wife. When they reached the third and most famous, The Hound of the Baskervilles, the lady at last jumped from her chair, wishing to join in. She and her husband spent ten minutes reading an overlong passage from the novel to establish the legend of the hell-hound. On the page this is rousing stuff, but in the hands and voices of these two, declaiming above some intrusive mood music, it became an alienation device of which Bertie Brecht would have been proud. This really should have been edited down during rehearsal. Oddly, the mystery was not fully explained, as with the previous two accounts. This smacked of sloppy writing to this particular sloppy writer.
In fact, overall the thing could have done with a little more rehearsal. Both men had wardrobe malfunctions: Watson knocked drinks off the drinks table when he put his coat on and Holmes struggled with a series of dressing gowns and smoking jackets, the sleeves of which would not co-operate. He wore his final change inside out, the label protruding jauntily at the base of his neck.
Mrs Watson, with her restricted range of reactions, only escaped murder at my hands because I’m basically a nice guy. When the end came – and it was revealed this was all some kind of séance so that Watson could contact his friend, fallen foul of the Reichenbach Falls, cashing in on Conan Doyle’s well-known enthusiasm for spiritualism – I thought, That’s a clever twist. Ho hum. Now let me get to the Gents’.
Any Holmes fans will tell you the great detective did not perish at that infamous waterfall. So was this the real Holmes indulging his old friend with another spot of play-acting? Was the play doubly clever, and perhaps unintentionally so? I am as sceptical of this as I am of séances.