The Final Revelation of Sherlock Holmes at The Pleasance, Islington

The Final Revelation of Sherlock Holmes by Tim Norton
Review by Ardy

It’s hard to summarise this play without spoiling it, but I’ll give it my best shot.

The basic premise of the play is that it’s 1930 and Holmes’ drug use has made such a dent in the finances of our favourite pair of investigators that Watson has to sell stories of old cases to the Strand Magazine. An invitation from the Royal Society of Military Surgeons provides a welcome distraction.  Holmes announces that he wishes to speak before the Society about the “perfect crime” which he has committed, Watson is distressed (to say the least), and things go down from there.

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The play is a two-hander set entirely in the rooms in 221B, in which respect it is similar to The Secret of Sherlock Holmes. The set is evocative of that time period. It’s not quite as crammed with Victoriana as the 221B that we may remember from Sidney Paget’s illustrations or the Granada show, but the piles of papers on Watson’s desk and the red armchair that Holmes uses to sit/balance on/drape himself across in the centre of the stage serve to create a sense of a 221B that, not unlike the characters inhabiting it, has seen better days.

I found it incredibly well-written in terms of the characterisation of both characters, especially of Watson, whose hidden and oft-forgotten depths are subtly brought to the fore. Their relationship is completely believable as that of two people who have been living together for a long time. The darker and more unpleasant sides of their lives are exposed as the play unfolds, but the script never loses sight of the things that bind them together in the first place.

Both actors are having a lot of fun with their roles. James McGregor is fabulous as Watson: suitably indignant about Holmes’ self-destructive tendencies, yet deeply caring at the same time, and his comic timing is impeccable. Watching Nico Lennon’s Holmes break down over the course of the play was heartbreaking. There are some really funny scenes, the most memorable of which is probably Watson teaching Holmes how to waltz. The twist at the end hits hard when it comes – personally, I only called it a few sentences beforehand.

The only slight issue I had was that the actors looked a bit too young to be Holmes and Watson in 1930, but this is easily forgivable. They and their director Danny Wainwright brought a youthful energy to the play, which could easily have been too static to really draw the audience in, but instead was funny, compelling, and genuinely heartwawrming.

Overall, I would recommend this without hesitation. Like all good Holmes-related things, you’ll enjoy it even if you wouldn’t call yourself a Sherlockian, but if you are one, it’s likely you’ll enjoy it even more.

The Final Revelation of Sherlock Holmes is running at The Pleasance Theatre Islington until March 2, 2014. Tickets are available from the Pleasance Theatre Box Office for £10.00-£14.50.

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