Holmes Is Where the Heart Is

Richard Foreman reviews the Valley of Fear, at The Southwark Playhouse.
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Holmes Is Where the Heart Is

Crime comes to south-east London again, but this time in the form of an innovative adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes story, The Valley of Fear, at The Southwark Playhouse.

The drama covers two stories – the mystery of the murder of John Douglas and the backstory of Jack McMurdo in America several years before. Unsurprisingly, the investigation involving Holmes and Watson grips the audience more than the sister tale. There are more red herrings than at Billingsgate Market – and the chemistry between the famous detectives is all you would want and expect. Joseph Derrington is particularly strong as Watson, acting as both narrator and foil to the mercurial Holmes.

The entire cast should be applauded for their performance, however. They each juggle several different characters, involving multiple mannerisms and accents. Nick Lane, the Moriarty-like architect behind the production, should also be congratulated for striking the right tone. The narrative may be peppered with humour, but what drives the show is an engaging mystery, populated by well-drawn characters.

Fans of Sherlock Holmes, whether of the books of various screen versions, will be duly rewarded. There are some gags and knowing nods to Sherlock lore, whilst the cast and playwright remain respectful and fond of the source material. One doesn’t have to be familiar Conan Doyle’s characters to enjoy The Valley of Fear, though. As I was leaving, the young woman sitting next to me mentioned how she would be inspired to check out the books.

Will she enjoy them? Elementary…

Sherlock Holmes: The Valley Of Fear is on at the Southwark Playhouse. Richard Foreman is the author of Raffles: The Complete Innings.