Reviews OWE & Fringe Published 16 February 2014

The Final Revelation of Sherlock Holmes

Pleasance Theatre ⋄ 11th February - 2nd March 2014

His latest bow.

Lauren Mooney

Sherlock Holmes. He’s the one with the pipe and the violin and the funny hat, right? Says ‘elementary, my dear Watson’ a lot.  One could argue that there’s a little bit more to him than that, but, really, who cares? Writer Tim Norton certainly doesn’t seem to. Though Danny Wainwright’s production is blessed with a rather lovely set and has a couple of well-intentioned moments, The Final Revelation of Sherlock Holmes feels like little more than a cheap cash-in on the character’s recent resurgence in popularity.

Though set in 1930, when Conan Doyle’s duo would have been well into their autumn years, this is not reflected in the performances in any way. The whole thing has a strange air of unreality from the opening moments. And yes, obviously it isn’t ‘real’, but it would have been nice if the creative team could at the very least have tried to buy into the premise for half a minute. Perhaps, in more capable hands, the characters’ constant bickering might have tugged at the heart-strings occasionally, their friendship like a marriage from which the bloom has faded, but that’s not the case here.

Anyway, it’s 1930, as I said, and Holmes and Watson are running out of money. All Holmes wants to do is take cocaine. Very little else happens for some time, which in the right hands could have been interesting, but evidently these are not the right hands; James McGregor’s Watson oafs around, providing comic relief, while Holmes shoots up and angsts in an armchair. It’s not terribly non-canonical or anything, but it all just feels a bit half-hearted. For one thing, we’re post-Sherlock now, so playing Watson as a total buffoon feels like a huge step backwards. Even the Jeremy Brett adaptations didn’t go that far and they were made more than 20 years ago now. Watson-as-idiot belongs almost entirely to the silver screen of the mid-20th Century, certainly not to the original stories nor to contemporary Holmes reimaginings, but Norton has written a Watson who likes jam. Twenty minutes in and the only real mystery here is why exactly the stage is so full of dry ice all the time.

So, in spite of the fact they’re supposed to have lived together for about forty years by this point, Holmes and Watson frequently have the kind of ‘well, as you know…’ conversations that litter the opening half-hours of many a disappointing film. Holmes actually has to remind Watson of the fact that he plays the violin (as if you could live with somebody who played the violin in the middle of the night and ever forget for a moment, Christ, you’d want to kill them), and Watson is still constantly amazed by Holmes’ deductions about even the most mundane of occurrences, like who his post is from, a trick which must surely have palled by now. It’s as if Norton has read a few of the short stories, bought a thesaurus and decided to just have a crack at it, wedging in a few references culled from Wikipedia for good measure.

This is a cold, cruel  Holmes with none of the wit or charm that makes you understand why Watson, or anybody else, puts up with him. Holmes on the page often feels like a brilliant alien trying to learn how to be a human being (this is something the makers of Sherlock got so right – as a friend pointed out to me during the last season, the only nice things Cumberbatch’s Holmes ever says to people have already been said to him) – but Norton’s Holmes feels less like an alien than like a prissy, rude child.

The Holmes stories have plenty of comic potential, but this production lacks the warmth of, say, Max and Ivan’s homage, or the poignancy of Mitchell and Webb’s. Despite the 1930s setting, The Final Revelation of Sherlock Holmes revels in the Victoriana at the expense of Conan Doyle’s fascinating characters. What you’re left with is a production full of fog and jokes about kippers with almost no heart or soul at all.


Lauren Mooney

Lauren Mooney is a writer, producer and arts administrator based in London. As well as writing for Exeunt and The Stage, Lauren works at Clean Break and is the writer-producer for Kandinsky.

The Final Revelation of Sherlock Holmes Show Info

Directed by Danny Wainwright

Written by Tim Norton

Cast includes Nico Lennon, James McGregor




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