(1.5 / 5)
The previous occasion I attended The New Theatre in Cardiff, Jess Conrad was donning his “amazing technicoloured dreamcoat”. The year was 1978, so with great anticipation, I returned to Cardiff’s well known variety theatre. Opened in 1906, the average height of British men was 4 inches shorter than today, which meant that the Dress Circle seat that I occupied for the performance under review, was decidedly less cramped in Edwardian then what I had to endure.
So, not off to an auspicious start then. I was attracted to this production because I have a life long interest in the famous consulting detective.
The action takes place in 1921 and 1922 and we learn that Sherlock was born on Twelfth Night 1854, which makes him 67-68. In a declining mental and physical state his isolated existence at his Sussex home is interrupted by the discovery of a woman, dressed in male attire being found on his own private beach. Over the next 100 minutes, we witness Sherlock piecing together the evidence until he unmasks the killer towards the end of the show.
Sherlock Holmes is played by Robert Powell, a solid actor whose acting peaked at the summit of Mount Calvary in Franco Zefferelli’s 1977 mini-series, “Jesus of Nazareth”.
Powell, excellent in this production, is much more believable portraying Jesus than he is Sherlock Holmes. Whether it is Basil Rathbone in the 1940’s, Jeremy Brett in the 80’s, Benedict Cumberbatch in the past ten years and Sir Ian McKellan in the 2015 film, “Mr Holmes”, there is a consistency in how our hero is depicted. Sharp intelligence, a kind of nervous inspired energy, a man of unique intellectual ability and impeccable instinct, I just don’t see Robert Powell being able to achieve that within his acting range. A great voice, I concede, but, even in Sherlock’s dotage, as Sir Ian McKellan was able to show, we must believe that Holmes is still an exceptional sleuth.
Liza Goddard as John Watson’s wife Mary is also miscast.
I have seen Ms Goddard on stage before in a dramatic role and I’m not overly convinced that her talents lie in this direction. The Final Curtain is a comedy thriller, but, sadly the writing doesn’t allow Mary to share many of the humerous lines, and that is a shame, because Liza Goddard is at her best in comedic roles. Instead she comes across as a Dame Judi Dench on Xanax.
Timothy Knightly as Dr. Watson fares a little better.
I last saw this actor in the fantastic 1994 revival of Arnold Wesker’s “The Kitchen” directed by Stephen Daldry. I attended the first night and it remains one of the most memorable productions I have ever seen. This production could do with some of the sheer excitement and tension that “The Kitchen” possessed.
Roy Sampson plays Mycroft Holmes.
Other than a comment about sibling relationship where he is implied but not present, there doesn’t appear to be any reason why he appears in this story other than padding it out a little.
Anna O’Grady plays Miss Hudson – get it? Daughter of the famous Mrs Hudson, housekeeper of 221B Baker Street, who, as this story is set in 1921, based upon the youthful appearance of Miss Hudson, her mother must have set some kind of record for giving birth. And as there is never a mention of a Mr Hudson – well the mind boggles?Miss Hudson is the breezily cheerful stereotypical Cockney maid.
Lewis Collier plays Detective Inspector Newman, looking suspiciously young for this rank for 1921. It is a totally nondescript character and the actor has little to work with.
Oh and there is a tramp played by Peter Brollow, which is fair enough as long as you don’t ever undertake crossword puzzles.
The play is written by Simon Reade, has an excellent pedigree of credits. Recently he wrote the screenplay for the film version of R.C. Sherriff’s novel “Journey’s End”. and has also worked with The Theatre Royal Bath, (whose production this is), notably on “A Room with a View” an adaptation of E.M. Forster’s exquisite novel. I don’t know what went wrong here. The dialogue is largely anodyne, bordering on the soporific, which manages to convey no chemistry between Holmes and Watson. The exception being the final scene where they are planning their future together, which is not bad at all.
There are some amusing lines, but the story provides no thrills and is so predictable, I was beginning to feel that I had read the story previously – I hadn’t. I had experienced greater excitement on a wet afternoon in Cwmbach.
And the final scene is totally superfluous and if you think about it, totally ridiculous.
The effects are nothing special and scene changes are carried out in an untidy and clumsy way of a curtain moving slowly back and for across the stage.
Sets other than 221b Baker Street are sparse with only limited props.
This production lies very much in the commodity camp of theatre. The House was almost full, and plays such as this do have a place in the dramatic canon, but I have seen this genre done much better over the years. If you are looking for theatre which challenges you, you would be better off staying at home taking on your pet Shih Tzu at a game of chess.
Sherlock Holmes – The Final Curtain – well, one can only dream.
The play runs until Saturday 30th June 2018 before moving on to Leicester’s Curve next week.
The play is suitable to all.
Runs 110 minutes including a 20 minute interval.
New Theatre Bookings