Sherlock Holmes, the great detective, is ready to retire to Sussex to keep bees. But before he does he and his old friends; Doctor Watson, Mrs Hudson and Inspector Lestrade; are embarking on one last tour to dramatise the details of Holmes’ last unsolved case.
Unfortunately they’ve arrived in Swindon without their disgruntled stage crew and the reassuringly expensive set has gone missing in transit. Lestrade and Mrs Hudson have deserted the show and headed back to London as a result, but when the game’s afoot the show must go on. Watson and Sherlock will play all of the parts if necessary… But not, necessarily, in the right order.
Let me tell you a story: We, that is Mrs Reviewer and I, were up at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year and, when we were looking through the itinerary a two-man Sherlock Holmes satire caught my eye. I booked tickets…
…Only for the wrong show. It turns out that Edinburgh-born Arthur Conan-Doyle’s Great Detective inspires many Fringe shows annually, at least 12 that year, and I booked us for “The Accidental Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”. Which was very much its own beast. If you like that sort of thing. Etc.*
So I was delighted to see that Holmes & Watson: The Farewell Tour was visiting Swindon. I even cut short a social visit to London to turn up at the Art Centre, straight from the train station, suitcase still in hand, so I wouldn’t miss it this time.
Never question my dedication to the cause.
Adrian Banks plays the retiring detective and Liam Nooney his companion in justice. A flurry of false whiskers, bonnets, pipes, props, music, sound effects and other additions and adornments help them to pad out the supporting cast. Chairs, a ladder, a biscuit tin and other miscellanea, are pressed into service as the set and properties.
Banks plays Holmes generally straight, but with great energy, pomposity and injured poise. Nooney’s Watson is entertainingly fussy, fey and endlessly crabby as he’s bullied into scattering his dignity to the four winds to recreate the dramatis persona of Holmes’ last unsolved case. Watson soon starts to rebel against being second banana in the telling, starts to pick up on Holmes’ malapropisms and much hilarity ensues. The play is surprisingly faithful to the Holmesian canon and quotes from the stories are seeded through the play until the bitter-sweet denouement.
After getting back from the Art Centre I looked up my blogs from last year’s Edinburgh Fringe for the purpose of this review. It turns out that while Holmes & Watson: The Farewell Tour was at the Fringe last year it wasn’t the Holmesian play we intended to watch at all. That was the critically acclaimed “the Adventures of the Improvised Sherlock Holmes”. I’d rushed back early from a very enjoyable booze up in London on a false premise.
Oops. The memory cheats. An elementary mistake, really.
*Should you wish to read my review of “The Accidental Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” at the Edinburgh Fringe 2016 then it is available at:
Many other review from last year’s Fringe are available, but the views expressed are independent of those of The Swindonian and feature much bad language as I wasn’t brought up proper.