REVIEW: Holmes and Watson: The Farewell Tour @ The Customs House, South Shields

Posted on March 28th 2017 by Whats on Northeast

Words: Chloe Allan for Cuckoo Review

Over one hundred years after its conception, Sherlock Holmes remains the criterion of detective fiction: an incontestable character of the literary canon. Indeed, even those unfamiliar with the novels themselves will almost certainly be acquainted with the character of Mr. Holmes; such is his legacy.

Of course, detective novels can be transferred on to the stage – Christie’s, ‘Mousetrap,’ remains a roaring success – however, it is a taxing vision. How does one portray the intricate details Doyle relies upon for plot – the look that gives the perpetrator away; the footprint that throws previous suspicion into disrepute – on the magnitude of a stage?

Certainly, Fortay (the scriptwriter) acknowledged this potential for difficulty, and has expertly evaded it – it is a play within a play, a microcosm of murder! Holmes and Watson farcically attempt to re-enact one of their most elusive cases, previously unpublished. Inspector Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson have, somewhat suspiciously, left, citing Holmes’s demeaning attitude for their disappearance and leaving the two to re-enact the case alone. Of course, this allows for satire – Watson portraying Mrs.Hudson, Holmes depicting a courtesan, and all under the guise of solving the unsolvable. As the two debunk the enigma, you can see the clocks working behind their eyes – something, someone more sinister casts their eerie shadow over the proceedings.

Indeed, this allusion to Moriarty is testimony to the writers’ continuity. It is evident and deserving of commendation that the script is deftly constructed. References to subsidiary characters, previous cases and character idiosyncrasies were evidently investigated, facilitating the successful execution of the play. Certainly, some of the assertions in ‘Holmes and Watson: The Farewell Tour,’ would have been outlandish had it not been for the intricate research demonstrated through the script and enacted through accomplished performance: high praise indeed.

It is interesting that this play acknowledges the subtle undertone of friendship between Holmes and Watson, continually underpinning the novels. Of course, Holmes’s cold, calculating mind would rather forgo sentimental relationships; however, it is undeniable that the relationship between Holmes and Watson is a point of fascination. Certainly, it was pleasing to see it recognized here. However, this is a ‘farewell tour’- Holmes intends to retire to Sussex, therefore there is something palpable underpinning the dialogue: there is significance in the words unsaid, a sense of finality expertly created by the scriptwriters and brought to life by the actors.

It is obvious, and certainly deserving, why this show has been propelled so far since its humble beginnings at the Edinburgh Fringe festival – a truly modern, certainly bold, and impassioned take on an institutionalized tale. A must see for Holmes fans.

This review originally appeared on Cuckoo Review, a site dedicating to developing the skills of young writers in partnership with venues across the North East. For more reviews from young writers, visit the Cuckoo Review website.

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