Theatre review - Sherlock Holmes, The Final Curtain at Opera House Manchester

PUBLISHED: 13:04 24 July 2018

Robert Powell as Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes the Final Curtain.


Robert Powell as Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes the Final Curtain. ©NOBBY CLARK

©Nobby Clark

The curtains should have come down Sherlock Homes, The Final Curtain some time ago, says Kate Houghton.

Dr Watson played by Timothy Knightley

©NOBBY CLARKDr Watson played by Timothy Knightley ©NOBBY CLARK

Oh dear. I do love a murder mystery, but I am quite sure that if you’re writing a Sherlockian style story, featuring the great detective himself, the dénouement needs to be an awful lot cleverer than this.

I don’t think that it was entirely due to the heat last night that I found my head nodding to my chest on multiple occasions, as I sat trying to enjoy the play, it was definitely more the fact that the play was disappointingly dull.

Mary Watson played by Liza Goddard in Sherlock Holmes the Final Curtain

©NOBBY CLARKMary Watson played by Liza Goddard in Sherlock Holmes the Final Curtain ©NOBBY CLARK

The actors, it must be said, worked very hard, doing their best with a clunky script and some state directions that were just too dull. And as for the curtain sweeping left and right between scenes…okay, so I get it, but please stop.

The story starts on a beach, with Sherlock Smith (a point which gets rather laboured and a pseudonym we know he NEVER would have chosen) and a young police officer staring down at the dead body of a young woman, who had just unsuccessfully applied for the position of housekeeper at Holmes’ country retreat. Next, up pops Mrs Watson, having taken the train from London to see Holmes, though I can’t remember her reason for why. Anyway, she doesn’t hang around and Holmes immediately heads for the smoke himself, smelling a rat.

This is about as mysterious as it gets. There’s not one surprise, and the ‘ta-dah!’ moments are not only signalled well in advance, but are less “ta-dah!” than “here’s one I prepared earlier.”

Robert Powell is an excellent actor and really does his best here, but there were times when it seemed even he had forgotten his lines(although, they are pretty forgettable so perhaps we can give him that). His Holmes was too limited though, too held in. I wanted wit and wisdom. I wanted flamboyance and attitude. I got a depressed old man (though by my calculations only in his mid-60s here) shuffling about and wittering on as if paranoid. He’s lucky the bouncy Miss. Hudson didn’t tuck him up in bed with a nice cup of tea.

Liza Goddard was far too brusque and British throughout and there was no real sense of dislike between them. I could imagine her running a British Raj station in India, but not plotting a single twist or turn worthy of a moment’s thought by the genius Holmes. And as for that final scene…what?! Why?

I would have loved a little more of the chat between Watson and Holmes. Brought to life by Timothy Kightly, he’s perfect – full of that wonderful bluff and bluster proper old Army gentlemen of the era would have been and completely enamoured of his old buddy Holmes. A few nostalgic chats between those two would have been marvellous, and allowed Powell to stretch his acting limbs a bit too.

I’m always so sad for a cast when it’s not their talent that is at issue, but the storyline, the script and the direction.

Not the worst way to spend a hot July evening, but when in Manchester certainly not the best.

Until 28 July at Opera House Manchester

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