THE SECRET OF SHERLOCK HOLMES. Author: Jeremy Paul; based on the characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle. First performed at the Wyndham Theatre, London, in the 1988-1989 season for some two hundred performances. Revived: March 2010, with Peter Egan (Holmes) and Philip Franks (Watson) in the two leading roles.


   This was a touring production of a play that had previously been in the West End, a few years back, with Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke as Holmes and Watson. I had seen their performance twice, once in a pre-West End outing in Guildford which was very disappointing since Brett kept stumbling over his lines, and secondly in the West End, near the end of the run, which was much more enjoyable.

   In this present tour Peter Egan was Holmes and Philip Franks was Watson, the same pairing that I had seen a couple of years ago in a tour of The Hound of the Baskervilles. That time I was a little disappointed in the performances but here they seemed much better and were comfortable in their roles.

   In the first part of this two-hander we are treated to the background story with Watson looking for someone to share digs with, meeting Holmes and setting up in 221b. We are taken through certain events, if not the actual cases, so some talk of Irene Adler, Watson’s marriage and eventually Holmes’s clash with Moriarty, and his return as the bookseller. The interval came as Watson collapsed to the floor.

   I enjoyed this part, mainly because writer Jeremy Paul had used the words and phrases from Doyle’s stories, so much of it was very familiar.

   The second part however was rather different. First we had Watson’s recriminations and Holmes’s explanation but then the story branched into something rather different as Holmes appeared to be something of a split personality (if that phrase is stilll used in the psychobabble of today) and eventually confessed to being Moriarty, having invented and portrayed the master criminal to give him some mental stimulation — or maybe he was deluding himself that this was the case. It was not all that clear.

   All in all an enjoyable production but there is no new story and the final fifteen minutes makes little sense.