EFR - Reviews of Holmes & Watson: The Farewell Tour

Holmes & Watson: The Farewell Tour

Mon 15th – Sat 27th August 2016

reviews

Hannah Sanderson

at 09:59 on 21st Aug 2016

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‘Holmes & Watson: The Farewell Tour’ by Stuart Fortey seems to have an interesting premise. It is a comic take on Conan-Doyle’s novels, which are often so funny in their own right. However, this one falls short. It is the script that ultimately lets the show down, with grinding clichés and annoying breaks in plot.

This is a shame, because the actors do appear to be particularly strong. The pair clearly try to drag the play along any way they can. This play calls for an insurmountable amount of energy, which both Sherlock (Adrian Banks) and Watson (Liam Nooney) fortunately manage to produce. Nooney should especially be commended for this, his constant switches of character, sometimes happening mid-sentence, were astounding and often add to the (desperately needed) comedy. Banks plays a convincing Holmes with his debonair self-assurance, and his interactions with both Nooney and the audience are engaging.

The simplistic set contributes to the play's comedy, helping to portray the collapsing nature of the show. The repeated gags help to keep the audience entertained, distracting us from a lacklustre script. Fortey’s script is filled with forced and unrealistic plot devices, which are annoying and nauseating to watch. A particularly jarring element for me is the constant inaccuracies between Conan-Doyle’s original novels and the references to them in the script. Another aspect that lets the play down is the characterisation of Watson. Rather than conforming to the well-loved, sturdy original character, he is portrayed as needy and constantly fishing for compliments. His lack of self-confidence constantly interrupts the show, meaning that the already stilted script stretches out for even longer.

Throughout the play there are three intertwining plots which constantly overlap and crop up without warning or appropriate links. This even causes Holmes at one point to scold Watson for confusing the audience, which is hilariously ironic.

It is a shame that this script lets the play down so much, because the acting is genuinely strong - both actors do try their hardest to extract as much comedy as possible from the script. What could have been a refreshing new take on an old classic falls disappointingly flat, and leaves a lot to be desired.

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Ryan Bradley

at 10:00 on 21st Aug 2016

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Retiring to Essex, Sherlock Holmes (Adrian Banks) enacts a few of his more absurd, unrecorded cases on a sparse, narrow stage. Accompanied by his loyal ‘Boswell’ (Liam Nooney), the two attempt to embody several characters, making the best of their limitations.

Gags are employed effectively, the use of props being one of the show’s most entertaining, unexpected features. The transformation of a pathetic, skinny lamp into a majestic lighthouse is a particular high point. Nooney’s prissy, insecure Watson navigates his way through these transformations with great comic intelligence, eliciting well-earned chuckles for his ability to shift between multiple characters. His emotive and bombastic prime minister is the best of these roles, recalling David Garrick and other overblown performers of yesteryear. Bank’s Sherlock is an appropriately pompous figure, also veering between a vast array of parts. The repartee of Stuart Fortey’s script is aimed at the audience with some success, blurring the divide between the dramatic spaces. This is helped by the actor’s communication with chief technician Jack Bennett, who is referred to by name.

Both Nooney and Banks deliver competent performances, but they are confined to shallow personas. In one respect, this works. After all, the show is a pastiche, dealing in archetypes and parodic imitations. However, the tired cardboard of Holmesian cliché begins to fade when the script reaches for sentimentality. On occasion, the play halts for an examination of its title characters, struggling to expose their tender humanity.

In one scene, Holmes admits to his fragility. Too shaken to express his dependency on Watson, it ends abruptly. This is an admirable idea, but one which is not left enough space to breathe. It is quickly followed by several incongruous bouts of silliness, including the childish, largely nonsensical (yet admittedly amusing) tale of the "poodle in a puddle near Peebles”.

Wordplay is another plus for ‘The Farewell Tour’, but it is often too blatant. Holmes declares “Outwot me, Witson”, only to have it analysed and explained in an infantile, patronising manner. This brand of comedy does not fuse well with the more serious content. Pathos is not Fortey’s forte. Echoing Neil Gaiman’s ‘Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?’, a final twist is rather unconvincing.

When it focuses on a more simplistic send-up, ‘The Farewell Tour’ shines brighter. It is more at home with Victorian melodrama. On occasion, it displays some insight into its source, referencing Holmes’ antiquarian disguise and Watson’s fainting – both from 'The Adventure of the Empty House'. The dialogue, which mimics the overly verbose, long-winded register of 19th century writing can be quite accomplished on occasion.

Sometimes, the details are inaccurate, but adherence to the Conan Doyle canon is hardly something one can expect from a pastiche. Accuracy is unimportant if a product works independently; I’m not convinced that ‘The Farewell Tour’ does, but its comedic ambitions and commendable performances are worthy of admiration.

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