Theatre Royal Windsor (venue)
15 April 2019 (released)
Blackeyed Theatre’s production of Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of Four is a blend of Victorian gothic, exotic Asia and the familiar prickly but close relationship between Holmes and Watson. Given how well we know Arthur Conan Doyle’s charismatic main character, embracing the challenge of bringing him to the stage is a brave move. Blackeyed Theatre doesn’t disappoint and successfully delivers an evening of stimulating entertainment that will delight Sherlock fans.
The musical talents of the 6-person cast is put to good use from the start. We are lured by seductively elegant music played live on a mix of instruments as the play opens onto a mysterious dark stage with deep red hued highlights. The background is reminiscent of a ruined cathedral emphasising the Victorian Gothic. The Islamic mosaic tile pattern of the floor continues the geometrically pleasing theme and hints at the bohemian East. All conspire to create the right atmosphere to showcase Holmes’ peculiar character, the machinations of his extraordinary ‘mind palace’ and the global span of the story that is about to unfold.
Luke Barton’s eccentric Sherlock spars and toys fondly with Joseph Derrington’s lovable Watson. Watson leads the narrative and the mystery is relayed through his perspective. He is our ‘everyman’, we relate to him and just as he does, we are concerned by and admire Holmes in equal measure. Sherlock’s open drug use and bare foot flaunting of custom and decorum are the peccadillos of a genius. Watson chides him;
“We’re gentleman of London, not savages”
Holmes is unwilling to fall in love as he believes this would diminish his intellectual clarity and colour his judgement. In contrast, Watson becomes more and more infatuated by their client, Mary Morstan (played by Stephanie Rutherford).
Christopher Glover, Ru Hamilton and Zach Lee deftly flit between delivering the musical accompaniment punctuating the unfolding drama and playing the multiple characters who bring this murder mystery to life. Conan Doyle wrote this tale in 1890 and play runs close to the original. I had to park my twenty first century political sentiments so as not to take offence at the colonial nineteenth century attitudes towards race and gender.
The tale whips along at a cracking pace and the action moves from Baker Street to suburban London and dips into the hidden past in India and the Andaman Islands before the mystery can be revealed. The story is complicated at times – quite a feat to convey on stage. Nevertheless, bear with it and all will be revealed. This thrilling production sparkles with excitement and will give you a gem of an evening.