SHERLOCK HOLMES – THE FINAL CURTAIN boasts all the ingredients of a great thriller but ultimately fails to live up to expectation
From Basil Rathbone’s memorable interpretation to Benedict Cumberbatch’s modern portrayal, it’s easy to see why Sherlock Holmes is the most portrayed literary character in film and television history. Since his first appearance in 1887, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional detective has captivated fans across the world – including myself. So when Theatre Royal Bath commissioned award-winning dramatist Simon Reade to create a new Sherlock Holmes thriller, expectations were understandably high.
Set in 1922, SHERLOCK HOLMES – THE FINAL CURTAIN finds Sherlock Holmes (Robert Powell), now in his 70s, in retirement in the south coast. Paranoia and arthritis have set in and the only thing that seems to keep him company are his bees. So when Mary Watson, the wife of his former associate Dr John Watson, tracks him down telling him she has seen her long-dead son, James, through the window of 221B Baker Street apparently alive and well, Holmes is determined to solve the mystery and confront the demons of his past at the same time.
At first glance, SHERLOCK HOLMES – THE FINAL CURTAIN seems to boast all the ingredients of a great thriller. The premise is intriguing, there are plenty of characters to keep you interested and a stellar cast has been assembled including much-loved veterans of stage and screen Robert Powell and Liza Goddard. Shame then that this quality cast is let down somewhat by an old-fashioned script.
Robert Powell makes for an engaging older Holmes, now struggling with old age and the monotony of boredom. While Powell’s portrayal is, for the most part, character-driven and focused, there are snippets of the charismatic and witty Sherlock we have become accustomed to and his rare scenes with Timothy Kightley’s bumbling and charismatic Dr Watson make for the best of the entertainment.
Roy Sampson is terrific as Sherlock’s cynical brother Mycroft, so much so, that’s it’s a shame we see so little of him in the play. Liza Goddard also delivers a capable performance as Mary Watson but it is here where Reade’s story starts to fall down. Strong-willed and still grieving the death of her son, Goddard’s portrayal Mary starts off well enough but soon spirals out of control as the tale takes an unexpected – and rather bizarre – twist in an attempt to both shock and surprise.
Jonathan Tensom’s set design is also a little disappointing. While Sherlock’s room at 221B Baker Street is impressive, the rest of the scenes are fairly simple and set against a black curtain with very little props. The decision to change the scenes behind a slowing moving curtain also doesn’t work as expected, interrupting the flow of the piece and at times, giving it an overall amateur feel.
That said, there is enough of a story to keep your interest here and fans of the genre will no doubt relish the return of the popular ‘consulting detective’. SHERLOCK HOLMES – THE FINAL CURTAIN is a perfectly reasonable effort by Reade to breathe life back to the popular literary character but its slow pacing and clumsy references offer nothing as developed, sophisticated or devious as the original author’s work.
SHERLOCK HOLMES – THE FINAL CURTAIN runs until 28 July 2018
Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.