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For Blackeyed Theatre ‘The sport is afoot’ as Sherlock Holmes decodes The Valley of Worry – Seen and Heard Worldwide

United Kingdom Blackeyed Theatre’s Sherlock Holmes: The Valley of Worry: Filmed (directed by Alex Harvey-Brown) at Bracknell’s Wilde Theatre, 16.9.2022, and accessible right here as a digital stream. (JPr)

Dr Watson (Joseph Derrington) and Luke Barton (Sherlock Holmes) © Alex Harvey-Brown

Author and Director – Nick Lane
Composer – Tristan Parkes
Set designer – Victoria Spearing
Lighting designer – Oliver Welsh
Costume designer – Naomi Gibbs
Motion designer – Robert Myles
Producer – Adrian McDougall

Sherlock Holmes / Teddy Baldwin – Luke Barton
Physician John Watson / Thad Morris / Eldon Stanger – Joseph Derrington
Jack McMurdo / Detective White-Mason / Birdy Edwards / John Douglas – Blake Kubena
Inspector MacDonald / Officer Jasper / Ames / Bodymaster McGinty / Cecil Barker / Professor Moriarty – Gavin Molloy
Mrs Hudson / Officer Marvin / Ettie Shafter / Mrs.Allen / Mrs. Ivy Douglas – Alice Osmanski

Blackeyed Theatre describes themselves as ‘one of many UK’s main mid-scale touring theatre corporations’ who since 2004 ‘have been creating thrilling alternatives for artists and audiences by producing theatre that’s audacious, accessible and memorable.’ Current world premiere productions embrace Frankenstein, The Unusual Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, Jane Eyre, The Signal of 4, The Nice Gatsby and Dracula and they’re at present touring Nick Lane’s adaptation of the final of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s full-length Sherlock Holmes novels, The Valley of Worry.

Now my background is that the anthology of brief tales about Sherlock Holmes was my important studying on any lengthy journey I made after I was many years youthful. I’ve not learn them once more for a while however nonetheless avidly revisit any previous movie or TV variations, and any new ones that seem sometimes. My favourites nonetheless are Basil Rathbone’s jingoistic wartime movie collection and – for me the definitive Holmes – Douglas Wilmer’s short-lived BBC assumption of function within the mid-60s. Later that decade the BBC made a collection with Peter Cushing who had appeared within the well-regarded The Hound of the Baskervilles for Hammer Movies in 1959. Within the subsequent years there was the criminally underrated 1970 The Personal Lifetime of Sherlock Holmes from legendary movie director Billy Wilder, Jeremy Brett’s Holmes for ITV and Benedict Cumberbatch’s up to date Sherlock for BBC in 4 collection from 2010 until 2017. It was created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss and featured Martin Freeman as Holmes’s trusty companion Dr John Watson and the late Una Stubbs because the landlady at 221B Baker Road, Mrs Hudson.

It’s the Cumberbatch model that clearly has influenced how Nick Lane’s depicts Luke Barton’s Holmes and Joseph Derrington’s Watson in his The Valley of Worry and they’re younger than we ‘historically’ see. Conan Doyle’s 1914 novel isn’t one I’ve learn as a lot as The Hound of the Baskervilles or The Signal of 4 and it was good to not have solved the thriller earlier than watching Blackeyed Theatre’s very welcome digital stream!

Holmes is with Watson in Baker Road when he receives a cipher from an informant. He decodes it with assistance from a Whitaker’s Almanack, and it reads ‘There’s hazard—could—come—very—quickly—one–Douglas-rich—country-now-at—Birlstone—Home—confidence—is—urgent’. Inspector MacDonald quickly arrives to inform Holmes that certainly a Mr John Douglas of Birlstone Manor Home, Birlstone, Sussex, has been ‘horribly murdered’. For Holmes ‘The sport is afoot’ and units off with Watson and MacDonald for Birlstone to fulfill the native detective there, White-Mason. Watson narrates how he’s ‘Making ready to decode a thriller that had it roots planted 20 years earlier and a few 4000 miles away’. (We quickly realise that this system – which can lengthen the play past its pure size – is critical as a result of there may be hard-working solid of 5 actors portraying 20 roles!) Watson continues, ‘And now if I’ll beg your indulgence, we will go away the acquainted confines of Baker Road and head again in time to the coal-rich state of Pennsylvania higher to entangle these roots.’

We at the moment are again in 1875 and listen to (the solid?) intone a standard tune ‘Parting Associates’ and its repeat of ‘I hope we’ll meet in Canaan’s land’ which provides to the environment with the change to the Pennsylvania scene. All of it will get a bit difficult initially with the actors in numerous roles, but it surely all works surprisingly properly. We meet gun-toting Brother John McMurdo travelling from Chicago to Vermissa on the head of Vermissa Valley and who’s on the lookout for work. On the journey he meets one other Brother from the native lodge (341) who suggests he goes to the Union Home and see Boss McGinty, the Bodymaster of Vermissa Lodge. He’s the pinnacle of an notorious gang of enforcers (and murderers) referred to as the Scowrers. On the native boarding home, he falls for Ettie, the daughter of its proprietor, and to chop an extended story brief, regardless of Ettie’s protestations he inveigles himself into the gang.

At Birlstone Home we learn the way John Douglas supposedly made his cash within the Californian gold fields earlier than coming to England along with his second spouse. He had been shot within the head with a sawn-off shotgun obliterating his options, there was a card in his hand with ‘V. V. 341’, his marriage ceremony ring is lacking, and there’s a brand-like scar – a triangle inside a circle – on his arm. There’s a muddy boot print by the window and a suggestion the assassin jumped out into the moat to make their escape. Holmes quickly wonders why he can solely discover one small dumbbell when he expects Douglas used two. Equally puzzling is why Ivy, Douglas’s supposedly loving spouse, isn’t as distressed as one may anticipate? And why does the story of household buddy, Cecil Barker, who found the physique rapidly unravel.

Professor Moriarty (Gavin Molloy) and Luke Barton (Sherlock Holmes) © Alex Harvey-Brown

Alongside the best way Holmes is confronted by his nemesis Professor Moriarty who threatens Watson and Mary, his new bride. (Once more, Gavin Molloy owed a lot to Andrew Scott’s Moriarty in Sherlock.) Reality-be-told Watson’s storytelling does maintain every little thing up however is required for the solid to vary their garments, it makes it fairly like a radio play and you could possibly in all probability get pleasure from The Valley of Worry simply as a lot along with your eyes shut. Nonetheless, Victoria Spearing’s single set – principally some distressed wooden and William Morris-style wallpaper – is sort of efficient as we cross backwards and forwards from Pennsylvania to Kent with minimal adjustments of stage furnishings till – with some entertaining banter and well-choreographed motion – all is revealed. It isn’t considered one of Conan Doyle’s greatest tales, however I definitely loved being within the firm of Holmes and Watson as soon as once more.

I watched one thing like this throughout lockdown and by comparability that was like am-dram (to not belittle some distinctive novice corporations!) in comparison with the appearing in The Valley of Worry which was nearly as good as I’ve seen at someplace just like the Nationwide Theatre. Luke Barton, Joseph Derrington, Blake Kubena, Gavin Molloy and Alice Osmanski have been an exceptionally hardworking and completed solid in a lot of totally different roles with differing accents. The extraordinary Barton did carry to life (as Watson describes him) an ‘boastful, infuriating, advanced, sensible man’ however channels Henry Higgins from My Truthful Woman a bit an excessive amount of. There’s nice chemistry between him and Joseph Derrington’s personable and ever-loyal Watson. Derrington wasn’t Nigel Bruce, Nigel Inventory or Edward Hardwicke from movie and TV, however he portrayed the perfect qualities of all of them together with Colin Blakely within the Billy Wilder movie – a specific favorite of mine – who he jogged my memory of most.

Blackeyed Theatre’s The Valley of Worry is extremely advisable for all devotees of Conan Doyle’s Holmes and watch it on tour at a theatre close to you or see this pleasant HD recording for your self.

Jim Pritchard



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