The Rudolf Steiner Theatre is just a stones throw from 221B Baker Street, so it seems appropriate to stage this play by Greg Freeman here. The play stays true to the original characters of Holmes and Watson and does have a strikingly modern feel in its headstrong leading lady, Miss Grendle, concerned about being an invisible woman and her mysterious servant Miss Rochester. The crime Holmes is called to solve is that “mysterious thing” that comes between the three of them and uncovering a tale of Brothels and sex slaves.
The set design by Leah Sams is surprisingly detailed and well furnished, creating the feel of a drawing room in a musty old manor house, with the wind blowing across the nearby lake where the bodies are found. Chandeliers, pictures, books and a nautical telescope, all play critical roles in the unravelling of the mystery. The only irritation is the lower front stage, which seems unnecessarily overused in the first act and creates some odd blocking.
The script at times feels in need of editorial rewriting, although it retains a slightly tongue in cheek tone throughout, as Holmes does his elementary stuff.
The fine cast (plus the invisible thing) work hard to put the story across, not easy in the heat of the hottest day on record and easily maintained their characters. Stephen Chance is a very stiff Holmes, especially in the first half where he does not know what to do with his hands, but he gradually relaxes and with a pipe or brandy glass in hand, channels his very best Jeremy Brett looks.
Philip Mansfield is the dogged Watson, bristling behind his large moustache in reaction to Holmes and with his gun at the ready in his inside pocket. Vanessa- Faye Stanley is the troubled and seemingly naive Lucy Grendle, struggling to be noticed and demanding Holmes pay attention to her. Imogen Smith is Miss Rochester, the loyal servant who we discover has some unique talents that impress Holmes!
And of course, no Sherlock Holmes story would be complete without a bumbling local policeman for Holmes to look disdainfully at. Inspector Peacock is played by Doug Cooper who brings great energy and fun to the role.
Director David Phipps- Davis keeps the pace up, the comedy rippling throughout and ensures plenty of surprises as the investigation continues and the invisible thing is slowly revealed.
Overall, Greg Freeman has done a good job creating a new Sherlock Holmes story that is fun and enjoyable to watch and there are plenty of visual and spoken clues to spot, to help the audience unravel the mystery themselves.
As Holmes says, “there are none so blind as those that do not wish to see” but this play is a case of go and keep your eyes open to solve the mysterious thing before he does.
Reviewed by Nick Wayne
Photo: Alastair Hilton
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