Last night's performance of Dick Backard had to be cancelled - the threat of the tube strike had scared away any prospective audience members (six, that we knew of), and considering our A Capella "trio" would, in fact, have been sung by one person plus whatever I could improvise, it was probably a blessing in disguise for all involved... Amusing though it would have been watching one person sing three harmony lines. Also, audience participation doesn't quite work when there are more people on stage than there are in the seats. Awkward.
I was lucky enough, however, to be invited along to The Final Revelation of Sherlock Holmes at the Pleasance Theatre, accompanied by Lisa of that most marvellous group of ladies, the Baker Street Babes.
(Warning: Oh, look! A tangent! *Jumps on*)
The play is something of a hidden gem for Holmesians, written back in the 70s. Similar in it's basic set up to The Secret of Sherlock Holmes, Act 1 is a window into the domestic life of our two favourite Victorian gents, Act 2 delves into the darker reaches of Holmes' mind, seeking to explore, to an extent, the torture of genius.
The production as a whole was balanced excellently. It is terribly easy with any two-hander for the action to become too static, or for the set to distract from what is being said. Director Danny Wainwright and Designer Ele Slade sidestep this potential issue very well indeed. The set - arranged on the revolve so that the seemingly sparse 221b exteriors fully masks the living room within - is fairly simple, a few chairs, a couple of desks. However, there was still a sense of cosiness and the feeling that this is a room which had been lived in - the clutter on the desk, the toppled books on their shelves, set the scene without being too noisy.
And what a celebration of Doctor Watson! Played with that awed curiosity coloured by years of frustration by James McGregor, there is not a Holmesian in the land who will not stand and cheer when any Watson says something along the lines of "I am a qualified Doctor, you know."
We must ask ourselves why on earth Watson puts up with Holmes, and there are two answers. The first is that Watson must be, as he was portrayed for many years, a first class idiot. We establish early on that this is not the case. The other, as Holmes points out both in the Canon and various incarnations, is that he is simply a Good man. McGregor's Waston encompasses all that keep us coming back to the Holmes stories - dedication to his profession, patience with his friend, sporting humour, and a desire to know and learn. The reason why Holmes, the most unsociable man in literature, has been the catalyst for so many friendships is that Watson demonstrates, time and again, how to be a good friend.
And then, of course, there's Holmes himself. It's difficult to say too much without giving things away here - however it must be said that, as once again we saw in The Secret, we are allowed a little further into the heart of this "great brain" than we would be in a Canonical production. Nico Lennon's Holmes is twitchy and restless, curling and uncurling himself out of his armchair like a cat with springs for paws. As mentioned, a few of Holmes' personal quirks come up in the course of the play and Lennon handles them well - awkward and petulant at times, but never too much, and never without the dignity with which he regards himself. Holmes is a man who carves out his own world - he is not an adapter. At least, not without Watson's guiding hand. And, as a final nod to a man who created his own profession, dips in and out of private police cases at will, and picks up and puts people down when it suits his need for information, we see no limit to his infamous stubbornness is the play's twist...
...Which I will NOT reveal here, because you must all go and see it.
I will say that the references to it being set in 1930 jarred me to begin with. Hang in there. All will be revealed. Because it IS 1930, we get a Tango. There, all better now.
In short, The Final Revelation of Sherlock Holmes is close enough the the general familiarity of Holmes as a public figure for someone who hasn't read the books to enjoy, yet jam packed full of the wit, case references and, ultimately, the battle for friendship that is so well loved by Holmesians. Excellent acting and direction compliment a funny, engaging script. Go and see it. Running until 2nd March at The Pleasance Theatre, nearest tube Caledonian Road.