Theatre review: Sherlock Holmes: The Final Curtain

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WHAT a strange and half-baked thing is this touring production from the Theatre Royal, Bath. It is a show with many advantages, notably the presence of that much-loved eternal couple of British theatre, the majestic Robert Powell and the lovely Liza Goddard; it also has an interesting theme involving the old age of Sherlock Holmes, whom we find unimpressed with the post-war world of the 1920s.

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh **

Yet despite these assets, Simon Reade’s new play somehow makes such a hash of its very short first act that it would hardly be surprising to see the entire audience fleeing during the interval. There’s Watson broadcasting his adventures with Holmes from a new-fangled radio studio, there’s a body on the beach beside Holmes’s retirement cottage in Dorset, and there are three elderly people – Holmes, Watson, and Watson’s estranged wife Mary – talking aimlessly on and on about how bad their knees are, are how little they understand the modern world.

Things improve after the interval, when we’re back in Baker Street, the plot begins to move forward, and Holmes decides that a boring retirement is not for him. The finger of suspicion points in a pleasingly unlikely direction; and the play ends in a coda that is downright Beckettian, in appearance if not in content.

Even the combined talents of Powell and Godard, though, cannot make this look like a play of much substance. Many of the audience looked young enough to have been attracted by the pace and spectacle of the latest television Holmes; and what they must have made of this hoary old specimen of live theatre is slightly painful to contemplate.

JOYCE MCMILLAN

Final performances today.