Complex but elementary entertainment
Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous creation is described as a “consulting detective”, known for his proficiency with observation, deduction and logical reasoning that borders on the fantastic, making everything appear elementary, in his world at least. Blackeyed Theatre’s Sherlock Holmes: The Valley of Fear (Southwark Playhouse) – Conan Doyle’s final Holmes novel – is an entertaining show that ripples with intrigue and supposition, taking us inside the mind of the complex genius, proving without a shadow of doubt that here is the granddaddy of neurodiversity. Brilliant, antisocial and enigmatic. You’ll need to have your wits about you keeping up with Nick Lane’s clever stage adaptation (he also directs) which plays with time and place as we move between Britain and America, the cast of five actors employing a colourful assortment of accents and using a range of props to become different characters in situ. It is a modus operandi of which Holmes would undoubtedly approve, appealing to his eccentricity and wit.
A mysterious, coded message is received, a warning of imminent danger, drawing Holmes and Watson into a tale of intrigue and murder. Lurking in the background is a secret society and the sinister work of arch enemy Moriarty. It unfolds into scenes that confuse and reveal simultaneously, every twist and turn turning up further questions and dilemmas. Into which the quintet of performers relish every opportunity to inject wit and mystery into proceedings. I particularly enjoyed Alice Osmanski’s triptych of roles, a perky Mrs Hudson morphing into the emotionally constipated Ivy Douglas and finally a hilarious caricature of Mrs Allen, a housekeeper with hearing difficulties. But it is the excellent Gavin Molloy who works hardest in six different roles including Moriarty.
Bobby Bradley impresses as Holmes, his body language and facial expressions a picture of intellectual superiority, a man who knows only that he is better whatever his weaknesses and quixotic quirks. Similarly, Joseph Derrington as Dr Watson, understated and whimsical and Blake Kubena as an amusing Sherlock acolyte and the yee-hawing Jack McMurdo.
Victoria Spearing’s set is minimal and adaptable, nauseating wallpaper and a typewriter giving the impression we are inside his Baker Street home. Despite one or two lags in the action Lane’s direction is sharp yet subtle, not giving too much of the complex plot away too soon. After all it’s elementary to the fictional genius. A show that distracts and pleases
Armando Iannuci’s The Death of Stalin (Barbican) is a comedy satire which tells the story of the aftermath of the dictator’s demise me the chaos that ensued with the remaining apparatchiks jostling for power. It’s absolutely hilarious yet horrific when one peels back the layers of madness and mayhem surrounding any despotic regime. Last week it was screened in live synchronisation with Christopher Willis’ incredibly powerful and evocative score, the composer having been influenced and inspired by the Russian greats, such as Shostakovich and Myaskovsky. Played by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Matt Dunkley, who were superb throughout, we soon forgot they were there such was the quality of their musicianship.
These live cinematic events have rapidly become a ubiquitous part of artistic programmes around the country and it’s easy to understand why. They regularly sell out and offer a unique experience that take cinema to another level. We laughed out loud, we applauded the playing and we gave the great dictator the tongue in cheek respect he deserved. Live and direct from jackass Joseph to all us peasants.
Sherlock Holmes’ –
Barbican –

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