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Sherlock Holmes: The Final Curtain

A retired bee-keeping Sherlock and his faithful sidekick Dr Watson take to the stage at Kingston's Rose Theatre to solve a final mystery.

How Sherlock Holmes would solve what he might call “a three-pipe problem” in just two acts was just one of the mysteries surrounding The Final Curtain, a play in which Robert Powell starred as the great detective in his later years when bee-keeping rather than sleuthing was his main preoccupation.

The solution by writer Simon Reade (the man responsible for the screenplay of this year’s excellent film adaptation of Journey’s End) was to hurry things along. Never mind that Holmes and his faithful companion Dr John Watson (a first-rate performance by Timothy Kightley) were nearly in their dotage. The game was afoot and the murder had to be solved.

The fact that the unfortunate victim had washed up on Holmes’s private beach in Sussex and was known to him meant that he was as much a suspect as an investigator. Add to the mix the mysterious appearance at his seaside home of Mary, the now estranged wife of Dr Watson, played with an admirable air of slightly detached frigidity by Liza Goddard, and you had the makings of a intriguing plot.

Powell, now a slightly more avuncular figure for those who remember him from his Jesus of Nazareth days, had just the right mixture of lofty idealism and fervent concentration for “the world’s greatest consulting detective” whose spirits had to be lifted by the occasional resort to opium and morphine. And Goddard proved an admirable foil as the two pirouetted their way around a storyline that involved the ghostly appearance of Mary and John’s deceased son and the anniversary of Holmes’ famous battle with his arch-nemesis Dr Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls.

Ensconced back at his old lodgings at 221B Baker Street, Holmes makes contact with his testy older brother Mycroft and gets to grips with modern technology in the shape of electrical recording devices and moving picture projectors. In a nice touch, the play is also bookended by Dr Watson making a broadcast about the case for the new-fangled British Broadcasting Company.

After a séance and a shooting all is revealed, leaving Holmes to utter the still resonant words from one of the final Conan Doyle-written adventures The Last Bow – “There’s an east wind coming all the same, such a wind as never blew on England yet.” Some may feel that given present conditions Holmes was being more than prescient.

Review by John Clarke

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