THERE’S Sherlock Holmes by Conan Doyle... and then there’s Sherlock’s Last Case by Charles Marowicz, the same characters but a very different approach.
Sherlock’s Last Case is mostly very funny with some lengthy moments of menace and a final 30 seconds to knock the breath out of you.
Any plot details will spoil the show but it twists and turns throughout, sometimes devastatingly, occasionally predictably.
We can reveal, without giving much away, that Holmes and Dr Watson are shacked up with their housekeeper, Mrs Hudson, in 221b Baker Street in 1897 and that Holmes has survived the Reichenbach Falls episode — although we don’t know how.
The opening dialogue between the sleuth and his faithful companion lets us know that this will be no ordinary, unbending, proper version of Holmes; Watson states loudly that he had been distracted by a woman’s cleavage “scraping the carpet”. Cue laughter, and there was plenty more fun on offer because this is a fine comedy, made all the funnier by Maria Aitken’s direction.
The familiar characteristics of the legendary characters are exaggerated even more — Holmes’ arrogance, Watson’s servility, Mrs Hudson’s censoriousness, and Inspector Lestrade’s limited intellect are pushed that bit further so that they become by turns absurd and dangerous. But they are all recognisable with Christopher Godwin as Holmes and Adam Kotz as Watson hitting just the right level of dignity and unbending Victorian surface morality.
There are times when the laughter stops and is replaced by menace as egos clash and jealousy prevails in a melodramatic dank and echoey basement. But we are never really very far from a joke either verbal or visual and we always know it will be just around the corner, even if things are looking a bit deep.
Because this play is both very shallow and very deep, it manages to be a light parody on the Holmes legend and a far more profound commentary on flawed character, greed and envy. We can’t explain why without revealing the plot so go and see for yourselves, it will be a theatrical highlight for most of us and certainly was for this reviewer.
Sherlock’s Last Case
The Watermill Theatre,
Monday, September 30