What mystery awaits the great Sherlock Holmes in his return to the West End? Not an unsolvable crime, but an exploration into one of the most enduring friendships in literature.
It is odd to think that there is no crime in this tale of the detectives’ detective, no murder to solve or theft to analyse. Instead Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous creations talk to each other and the audience about their lives and varied adventures.
In Simon Higlett’s Baker Street set – all filing cabinets and folders, folios and a fiddle – the tale of the two friends is told; how they met, grew into London’s foremost crime-solving team and took on the underworld’s most brilliant mind, Professor Moriarty.
Quite how Robert Daws’s everyman Watson put up with Holmes for so long is a mystery in itself, his warm, emotional being sitting at odds with Peter Egan’s Holmes; a cold, cocky, analytical, gesticulating fellow whose lack of thought for emotion and logical mind suggest a character more computer than man. Yet, every now and then, beneath the blustering verbosity, he shows a shed of compassion for his long-time companion which is enough to keep the good doctor happy.
This is not, I should point out having studied all the evidence, an adaptation of a Holmes tale. Rather it is inspired by the series’ central characters and tries to delve deeper into their psyche, particularly that of the charismatic detective and his need for a worthy adversary. Who is he without a mystery to solve?
Jeremy Paul’s play is directed by Robin Herford, director of London’s long-running thriller The Woman In Black. It doesn’t take a detective of Holmes’s quality to draw comparisons between the two; the neatness of the two-handed cast, the black silhouette appearing eerily from the darkness, the use of Matthew Bugg’s sound and music to really heighten the moments of drama. The similarity of style reveals that this is indeed the work of the very same director.
Will this production have the longevity of the other? No, it is playing for a limited season until 11 September. Was it difficult for me to make such a deduction? No, it was elementary, my dear reader.