Sherlock Holmes and the Valley of Fear
Assembly Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells
Five years on from its production of Conan Doyle’s The Sign of Four, the Blackeyed Theatre Company returns with a stage version of the final Sherlock Holmes novel. And what a thoroughly entertaining and ripping yarn it is.
Holmes receives a mysterious cipher that when decoded (easy peasy for a man of his intellect) reveals a plot against a man called Douglas of Birlstone House in Sussex. Before the great detective has hardly had time to bask in the glory of yet another effortless piece of mental gymnastics, a police inspector arrives to inform him that Douglas has been murdered.
With the game now well and truly afoot Holmes and trusty sidekick Watson are on their way South to investigate. But the case is far more complex than even Holmes could have imagined and has its origins years earlier and thousands of miles away in America involving a corrupt and shady group of men. Plus Holmes also detects the hand of a villain from his past on the case.
It’s a masterfully crafted plot by Conan Doyle and writer/director Nick Lane has done a first rate job of adapting it for the theatre with clever use of flashback scenes. And he’s blessed with a cast of five playing multiple parts who all carry things off with aplomb. It’s the scenes between Holmes ( the excellent Luke Barton) and Watson (Joseph Derrington) that are the most compelling, however. Witty moments are mixed with scenes of often aching poignancy between the pair as they reflect that this will probably be their last case together.
With mystery, suspense, well choreographed action, excellent performances and effective music by Tristan Parkes, Blackeyed Theatre has produced a thrilling night of theatre that even those who know the outcome should enjoy.
Reviewer: Tony Peters