Review: The Secret of Sherlock Holmes, Duchess Theatre

“I find it best that two men find out the worst about each other before living together”

After The Fantasticks finished its run somewhat abruptly, the Duchess Theatre now plays host to The Secret of Sherlock Holmes, a production that has been touring the country and how has a home in the West End for the summer. Jeremy Pauls’s play is a psychological thriller which deals with Sherlock Holmes, delving into the psyche of the man himself and his relationships with the ever-faithful Dr Watson and his nemesis Professor Moriarty.

Peter Egan and Robert Daws, taking over from Phillip Franks who played the role on tour, take us through Holmes and Watson’s first meeting and follow them as their association develops and deepens, providing intriguing insight into characters with which we are so familiar but about whom we actually know very little. The fallout from the infamous events at Reichenbach Falls form the crux of the show as they both deal with the challenges of Holmes’ actions.

Peter Egan’s Sherlock is at times magnificent in his pursuit of logic and cracking mysteries, at times close to being sociopathic in his inability to relate fully to other humans. It is in the examination of his demons, real and imagined, and his fears Holmes Daws’ Watson provides a lovely well-rounded characterisation to a familiar figure who is often side-lined, putting him at the emotional heart of the play, teasing back the protective layers of the great detective and finding that his needs are all too human despite what his facade might suggest.

There’s a lovely chemistry between the two actors as they play off each other, and the growing tenderness and affection between the two, although never articulated out loud, is plain to see. There’s mention of other characters, Irene Adler, Mycroft, Watson’s wife, but the focus is largely on the two gentlemen. The set is nicely dressed as a dark but warm study, stuffed full of books and artefacts and memorabilia, a real bachelor’s pad. A wrought iron staircase runs up to a gallery which crosses the back, adding an extra level from which additional scenes could be played and shadowy figures loomed.

Surprisingly dark and oft-times humorous, The Secret of Sherlock Holmes made for a fun time at the theatre. Not a particularly challenging play, but engagingly intriguing and a majestic performance from Egan. It could be a little pacier and part of me thought it didn’t really need the interval, but not bad at all.

Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes (with interval)
Programme cost: £3.50
Booking until 11th September

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