The year is 1930. The location is 221B Baker Street. The Final Revelation of Sherlock Holmes, playing now at the Pleasance, is an interesting take on the Sherlock Holmes canon. Sherlockians will find much to enjoy, and they will equally spot the significance of the year in which the play is set and a few other playful details and references. There are a few incongruities that will rankle with aficionados: the most glaring of which is that Holmes and Watson didn’t live together, so they wouldn’t have shared the bills…
Whilst Holmes fulfils his need for mental stimulation by descending further and further into drug abuse, Watson hopes to bring his friend out of his black mood with the promise of an after dinner speech. Holmes has recently become obsessed with the idea of the perfect crime – so perfectly executed that the criminal leaves no trace and nobody knows it has been committed. It sounds the ideal topic for an after dinner talk, but what if the socially awkward Holmes is obliged to dance?
Tim Norton’s play is a fresh and lively take on Conan Doyle’s most famous creations. There isn’t all that much plot – with only two on-stage characters that’s a necessity – but The Final Revelation of Sherlock Holmes engages the interest thanks to some zinging dialogue and pithy exchanges between Holmes and Watson, who are skilfully coloured and recognisable. There’s a welcome amount of humour in the piece too, and it ultimately says interesting things about the relationship between writers and their literary creations. Whilst drawing out levity and a chumminess between the two leads, Norton’s play doesn’t shy away from the darker side of Sherlock Holmes’ character. Those with an aversion to needles: beware.
The two actors bringing the characters to life make a pretty decent stab of it. On the face of it, James McGregor is more successful as Watson, but then it’s an easier part to play. He’s suitably affable, has good comic touches, and importantly his Watson is a human being who has abundant compassion for his friend (McGregor is thankfully a far cry from Nigel Bruce’s appalling characterisation of Watson as a bumbling idiot). Nico Lennon is a fine actor and he makes for an interesting Holmes. It proves a blessing that he avoids the type of shallow and smug ‘autistic rich boy’ typified by the Matt Smith/Benedict Cumberbatch School of Acting (what is it with modern British TV leading men?) It’s perhaps his youth that is the biggest problem, since we are invited to see Holmes towards the end of his career, out of time, some three decades after the death of Queen Victoria. Such an idea of Holmes would perhaps bring to mind Jeremy Brett in the later Granada series, full of gravitas and worldly experience. Working to the script, Nico Lennon provides light and shade, but an older actor could have brought more to the part.
The world of Sherlock Holmes envisaged by Tim Norton’s play and created here in Let Them Call It Mischief’s production is an affectionate homage to Conan Doyle’s creation. The effect is enhanced by tidy and set design, and warm yet gloomy lighting, with the smoke machine put to good use, and not just to convey the omnipresent London fogs. It works as a play in its own right, though undoubtedly aficionados of the great detective will be especially drawn to the production. There are some secrets and unexpected twists to the story that will amuse.