Sherlock Holmes is one of those characters that is part of our national psyche. The books continue as best-sellers years after the authors death, and through the years he’s been played on stage and screen by greats like Ian McKellen, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Basil Rathbone and, most recently, Benedict Cumberbatch. For this adaptation, it’s Robert Powell’s turn to take him on. He’s the actor who found worldwide fame playing Jesus of Nazareth in Franco Zeffirelli's 1977 film. He then went on to star alongside Jasper Carrott in The Detectives, as well as Holby City and Doomwatch.
You can tell he’s an elder statesman of the stage and from the moment he begins you can see he’s confident and accomplished in the role. He works especially well for this story, as it is about an elder Sherlock, who retired a few years back to concentrate on his beekeeping. But, unsurprisingly, mystery still has a way of catching up with him.
The other big star is eighties star Liza Goddard (Dr Who, Roll Over Beethoven and Woof) as Mary Watson. The fact that they’ve got such an well-known actress playing this role show’s you that Mary’s part in this story is more significant than in many of the Sherlock books. To explain why that is might lead to spoilers, so let’s not.
All round it’s a fine cast with good support from Timothy Kightley (Dr Watson), Roy Sampson (Mycroft Holmes), Anna O’Grady (Miss Hudson) and Lewis Collier (Detective Newman). Particular kudus must also go out to the set designers with excellent dusty old gaslight scenes that all interchange quickly as the curtain runs along the stage. At just under two hours all in, this is an enchanting evening of proper old school theatre.
It’s worth pointing out for the purists that The Final Curtain is not based on a Conan Doyle novel, but on one of the many books other writers have since written about his most famous character. This one is by Simon Reade and you can expect the odd twist and turn in the characters you feel you know.
Sherlock Holmes: The Final Curtain ran at The Theatre Royal from Monday 4 to Saturday 9 June 2018.