Victoria Bos reviews ‘The Singular Exploits of Sherlock Holmes’, performed at the Barnfield Theatre in Exeter on 21st November.
Sherlock Holmes was first introduced to the public by his creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887, and since then has become a firm favourite in the hearts of readers everywhere. Considered by many to be the pinnacle of logical thinking, the consulting detective has been portrayed by many actors over the years, such as: Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett, Robert Downey Jr and Benedict Cumberbatch, but still his adventures continue to fascinate us.
With this in mind, I was excited to see ‘The Singular Exploits of Sherlock Holmes’ at the Barnfield Theatre in Exeter on 21st November. Produced by the ‘Don’t Go Into The Cellar! Theatre Company’ and billed as “an affectionate one-man homage to the world’s greatest detective” it seemed like an interesting take on the well-loved stories and my hopes for the production were high.
The show was an intimate affair, set in the Clifford Room of the building, and as the audience were allowed in we were met with a minimalist, but suitably Victorian, set. It felt as if we had walked into 221B Baker Street itself and any fan of the detective will have great fun spotting the little references to the stories scattered everywhere. Once we had all had time to take it in the show began. I won’t spoil the storyline for you, but most of the play consists of Holmes abandoning the fourth wall as he goes through and explains his various cases, as well as other subjects, to the audience.
In this instance, Jonathan Goodwin took to the stage in the role of the great detective. Now, it doesn’t matter which interpretation of Sherlock Holmes you may have seen before, the second Goodwin steps onto the stage he IS the detective. His characterisation encompasses every trait Conan Doyle describes in the stories and his clear stage presence and charisma keeps the whole audience enthralled. Throughout the production, he also takes on the roles of Holmes’ various foes, changing his coat and hat, but also providing each of them with a distinct characterisation, which more than lives up to their origins. It is quite remarkable to see him change from one character to another so smoothly.
“I managed to find myself being beckoned up onto the stage, to play the role of Holmes’ wife”
Several of Holmes’ cases are examined in detail within the play, with Conan Doyle’s original text being masterfully mixed with original content. There is also a certain element of audience participation involved as the audience are asked to engage by Holmes, who will often make eye contact with audience members, telling them they remind him of certain criminals. We were told on more than one occasion to “nod our heads and smile” and somehow I managed to find myself being beckoned up onto the stage to play the role of Holmes’ wife (well one interpretation’s). However, Goodwin’s version of Holmes has a real charm to him, meaning it never seems awkward or embarrassing. Tougher topics are also touched upon, such as death, friendship and drug addiction, making the play seem deeper and more interesting as Holmes’ character is explored and laid bare before us. All of this is held together with humour and suspense, making for a great show.
“I cannot recommend it enough for any Sherlock Holmes fan”
In short, the production is a love letter to Sherlock Holmes. It touches on a lot, and Goodwin’s interpretation of the detective is truly wonderful. The company tours the production around the country, and if it happens to be near you, I cannot recommend it enough for any Sherlock Holmes fan. It is a new approach to the well-loved material and frankly the decision to go and see it should be elementary, my dear reader.