Sherlock Holmes: The Best Kept Secret – Review – West Yorkshire Playhouse
Sherlock Holmes: The Best Kept Secret – Review
West Yorkshire Playhouse, May 2013
by Mathew Gillings
Come, Watson, come! The show is afoot! Conan Doyle’s super sleuth appears to have really hit the mainstream in recent years. Two box-office successes and a BBC drama that has got the whole country talking. Now, Mark Catley writes a stage production combining the charm and majesty of Mr Holmes with the finery of theatre. It’s an absolute gem. It will no doubt be a huge success when it hits the West End after its tour of the UK.
It’s important to avoid falling into the trap of judging this production against the big and small screen. This play doesn’t attempt to replicate, or even provide competition, for the prior hits. So we need to evaluate this performance in its own right. Set two years after the infamous incident at Reichenbach Falls, where Sherlock Holmes and his arch-nemesis Moriarty fall to their apparent deaths, Catley explores a new dimension to the story. It gives the audience an insight in to Holmes’ ‘Best Kept Secret’.
Sherlock Holmes is seen in retirement, unequivocally unwilling to take on any new cases. That is until Mycroft, his brother, is accused of treason and sentenced to hanging. With seemingly cruel consequences on the horizon, Sherlock jumps into action by using his charm, wit, and deception to seal the deal.
The plot is anything but elementary. BAFTA-award winning Catley manages to combine mystery and logic to create an undeniably clever story. Of course, this element of ingenuity is something we have come to expect from the Holmes writers. But the talent of Catley isn’t something to underrate. He has written for Casualty, Holby City, and Eastenders, yet admits that Sherlock Holmes could well be his proudest achievement to date.
However, despite the adequate satisfaction of revelation in the play’s closing minutes, there is still something missing. It don’t have the usual sense of dread I usually feel towards the villains. I don’t leave idolising our resident detective. I admire the story’s intent, yet I don’t feel the emotion.
Jason Durr’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes is an interesting one. The scars upon his back confirm the magic of make-up (and create gasps around the audience). His cries of agony make them appear all the more ravenous mixing with his tales of cases gone by. The joy of dealing with a character like Sherlock Holmes is that each actor can leave their own mark on him. He’s malleable, and open to change. Downey Jr. gave him the looks, and Cumberbatch gave him the personality. Durr gives him a much darker side. It’s a side that portrays him as a broken man with a serious tobacco addiction and insomnia. Perhaps this is the reason why idolising him was made all the more difficult.
“A fun night at the theatre”
Andrew Hall gives us copious amounts of slap-stick humour through the character of Dr Watson. He is responsible for providing the audience with some immense illusions that leave me feeling quite shocked. Similarly, Mycroft’s (Adrian Lukis) inhuman nature gives the audience a few laughs. His ultimate lack of compassion, mirroring his brother perfectly, is great.
Mrs Hudson is unfortunately nowhere to be seen, but Andrew Langtree, the journalist, is a hot favourite of mine. His bustling demeanour reminds me of Manuel from Fawlty Towers. His enthusiasm for the character really shines through. Langtree also sets the show up for Catley in the future, by leaving the audience on a pretty serious cliff-hanger that questions the whole story.
Overall, the audience enjoys some simple, good, honest theatre. The set isn’t fancy, there is no band, but it does offer pure, admirable acting that the cast should most definitely be proud of. It might not have the endorsement of a Hollywood celebrity, and it might not have a huge emotional climatic conclusion, but Sherlock Holmes: The Best Kept Secret is a great stage performance that offers a fun night at the theatre. “Excellent!” I cried. “Elementary,” said he.
Photos: Manuel Harlan