The Secret Of Sherlock Holmes

The Secret Of Sherlock Holmes was rushed in to fill the gap left by the early departure of The Fantasticks and Robin Herford’s revival of Jeremy Paul’s two-hander starts off promisingly but swiftly runs out of steam in a whistle-stop account of the relationship between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s enduringly famous creations – ultra observant Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson.

Told through Watson’s eyes, it dashes through first meetings, shared bachelor lodgings at 221B Baker Street (atmospherically evoked by designer Simon Higlett), the obsessive detective’s destructive habits (injecting cocaine) and foibles (banning Watson from his personal chair), then marriage for the amiable doctor – all leading up to Holmes, in pursuit of arch enemy Moriarty, crashing to his apparent death at the Reichenbach Falls.  But it’s downhill after that, with Paul’s attempts at digging into Holmes’ psyche proving neither particularly interesting nor convincing.

Robert Daws’ tubby Watson is a likeable chap, loyal, devoted, sensible and built for matrimony.  Peter Egan (despite a strong stage presence) fares less well as the melancholy supersleuth, often allowing a hammy, out-dated delivery to take over his character. 

At its best, this 1988 play reveals (though only in passing) the deductive skills which made the fictional Holmes such a fascinating character  – but there is far too little of the man in detective mode,   and by the time the somewhat tenuous “secret” of the title is revealed, this short duet had already started to feel far too long.



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Review: Louise Kingsley