NODA Review: The Return of Sherlock Holmes
By Pat Connor
“The Return of Sherlock Holmes” is the third in a series of plays written about the exploits of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s well-known character from the pen of excellent local writer Mark Jones, who also found time to direct the play with Rebecca Dickinson as Producer. Set in the modern day, the story follows on from Mark’s last production which ended with the supposed tragic death of Holmes along with his formidable opponent Professor James Moriarty when they fell over the precipice of Switzerland’s Reichenbach Falls, in line with the stories of Conan Doyle who also killed off his well-loved character in the same manner. He finally resurrected him in the 1903 story “The Adventure of the Empty House”, after a major public outcry against the demise of his iconic character and happily, in this production we find that Holmes is also still alive due to a plan devised by his brother Mycroft and the secret service.
Although there was still some wonderful comedy and pathos in this complex production, I felt overall the story was much darker than the last two plays, as there were some very serious themes and subjects involved in the plot, these included domestic violence, blackmail and revenge, there was also a lot more emphasis on Holmes’s drug addiction. Dr Watson is also finding life difficult as his wife Mary has died, he is also not happy that he wasn’t included in the plan to stage Holmes’s death, but after talking to his friend he decides to move back in to 221A Baker Street with Holmes and Mrs Hudson and begins to start work again on cases. Holmes's brother Mycroft and Inspector Lestrade have both retired, so this time we find him working alongside the secret service rather than Scotland Yard. Holmes and Watson take on several cases which initially appear to be independent from each other but by the end of the play we find they are connected.
This was a very cleverly written play with very innovative technical input, and excellent use of the stage area. There was a well-designed set with a large screen at the back of the stage with a door on each side and 2 small sets on either side of the stage in front of the proscenium arch, one was a room in Sherlock’s home and the other was used for different locations by using various props, which along with applicable costumes added to the production. We were kept up-to-date with the action and timeline of the story on the screen and the action was also accompanied by recorded very atmospheric music and excellent lighting which added to the feel and atmosphere of the play. The contribution to the success of this play by all the backstage crew should not be underestimated especially in this type of production.
There were some wonderful characterisations and performances all round from the cast, which included an outstanding performance from David Reid in the very demanding role of Sherlock Holmes who has made this complicated character his own. He was complimented excellently by Bobby Walsh as Dr Watson and once again Siobhán Edge gave a superb comedic performance as the irreverent Mrs Hudson. Zoe Jones was very confident in her role and clandestine as Inspector Hopkins; Holmes's secret service contact and Sam Quinn nicely played the mysterious Adaline who was being blackmailed and was one of the characters who connected the cases. There were other talented actors who showed their versatility with great aplomb playing several different roles and characters between them and they included Chris Franic, Valerie Fotheringtham, Matthew Rimmer, John Holland and Rebecca Dickinson who all gave good performances in all their roles. The action was taken at a good pace, and diction was more than satisfactory, although some of the characters were quite softly spoken, however happily the dialogue could still be heard.
Congratulations must go to the very talented Mark Jones and to everyone involved in bringing this special excellent piece of theatre and entertainment to the stage which we thoroughly enjoyed. Thank you very much for inviting us