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Review: Holmes and Watson – The Farewell Tour

‘Before slipping into well-earned retirement, Sherlock Holmes has prevailed upon his long-time companion Dr Watson, his landlady Mrs Hudson and Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard to join him in a farewell tour of the British Isles. For the first time ever they will re-enact one of the detective’s most baffling unrecorded cases – The Case of the Prime Minister, the Floozie and the Lummock Rock Lighthouse – an affair upon whose outcome the security of Europe once hung by a thread. Shrouded in secrecy until now, this case has finally been approved by the government for public disclosure.’

So say the notes for this two man show from the touring Angus and Ross theatre company with Julian Finnegan as Holmes and Dominic Goodwin as Watson. They had arrived at Thornton’s Little Theatre with a note from the rest of the company saying they weren’t coming along and neither were the spectacular sets. With what purported to be props left over from whatever the last production might have been and playing all the parts themselves, they proceeded with the adage, “the show must go on”.

They did this quite well, but perhaps with a little tiredness when considerable fizzing energy might have heightened some of the scenes. It seems the bulk of the audience agreed and laughter rarely rang out, but an air of general mild amusement seemed to be as much as we were stirred to.  Both actors did well with changes in character (and notably sex!) and projected well in an auditorium where the bulk of the audience is seated some distance from the main stage.

Another complication was the plot, which was intertwined with another thread of ideas. As the notes to the production once again says,
‘It is also understood that Mr Holmes has been entrusted by Her Majesty with the conveyance to the Tower of London of the fabled Satsuma Stone, stolen from the crown of William of Orange in the seventeenth century and only recently discovered in a midden in Maastricht. It is expected that the evening will include a glimpse of this priceless gem; in which case, one can only be thankful that Professor James Moriarty, the Napoleon of crime, fell to his death at the Reichenbach Falls. Or did he? Or is he still alive, planning another deadly strike as he lurks, unseen, in the wings?’

This second thread becomes central to the play, with the identity of Moriarty and others called into question. It allowed the writer (Stuart Fortey) a nice excuse at the interval, to leave Watson watching over the audience in case anyone should try and make off with the stone, which had vanished from Holmes’ safe keeping. It also provided a neat twist in the end for the play – which won’t be revealed here, so as not to spoil the production elsewhere.

This thread did move away from being totally comedic and the play therefore was trying to do a bit too much – comedy and a somewhat more serious set of messages alongside a typically Holmsean form of complexity, which only the great man himself could fathom.  Overall, this was mostly a good mix of some physical comedy and ideas but perhaps a little flat.

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