With a plethora of Sherlock Holmes shows to catch at this year’s Fringe; our fascination with the super-sleuth showing no signs of abating. But updates, fan-fictions, and spin-offs aside; we always seem to return to the original material and the slight disdain.
Holmes slips from the page with literary accuracy and dramatic freshness
Written by David Stuart Davies and directed by Gareth Armstrong, The Last Act sees Holmes reminiscing about his capers with John Watson: the cases, the chumminess, and the colourful characters who permeate the plots. There is something innately fragile about this Holmes: once happy to be alone, now left with only the ghosts of the past to talk to. He lopes about 221B Baker Street like an injured wolf; the disdainful exterior betraying that there is, after an, an interior need for human connection.
In the best manner of a farewell tour, the script pays tribute to all of the greatest hits. This allows the audience their fill of wry smiles and sagacious nods; but offers a new and altogether more human perspective of the indefatigable genius who is now... well… fatigued.
Beady of eye, theatrical of eyebrow, and clipped of consonant; Nigel Miles-Thomas embodies Holmes with a more than satisfactory resemblance to Sidney Paget’s original sketches. Aficionados need not fear: this is a wonderfully traditional representation in which Nigel Miles-Thomas fully embodies Holmes, channelling more than a little of the Jeremy Brett iteration, and making him slip from the page with both literary accuracy and dramatic freshness.
Miles-Thomas also creates the fourteen characters who populate the hour; showcasing both his own range and allowing us to believe in Holmes as the master of disguise we know him to be.
Whilst some of the references may land more effectively for the experts, there is still much to be gained for those with a more limited understanding of the Holmesiverse; and indeed, this may be a solid starting point covering, as it does, so much ground.
It is particularly piquant to watch the piece unfold in the shadow of the Surgeons' Hall Museum. The collection houses artefacts from the careers of both Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the man he credited with inspiring Sherlock Holmes: his medical tutor, Joseph Bell. A part-manufactured part-coincidence of which Holmes would surely approve.