Sherlock Holmes is the most portrayed fictional character in history, in no small part due to the clever and elegant solutions he provides to seemingly impossible problems. It is an exercise of sheer audacity, then, to eschew this aspect of a Holmes story, and instead attempt a character study of one of literature’s most enigmatic, eccentric and contradictory figures. This is what Sherlock Holmes The Last Act attempts, and as a one man show with one actor playing all the characters, no less!
The play opens with Holmes attending the funeral of his lifelong companion Dr John Watson, the man who chronicled their adventures together and the one man he could ever trust. Holmes starts to talk to Watson, and soon he endeavours to recap the whole story of their lives together, from being first introduced, to Holmes’s retirement in Sussex to a life of nature.
We hear of the famous stories of The Five Orange Pips, The Speckled Band, The Hound of the Baskerville and The Final Problem, but finally from Holmes’s point of view. Holmes reflects on his drug addiction, his complicated relationship with women, and his friendship with the man he described as his ‘Boswell’, Dr Watson.
The performer Nigel Miles-Thomas is an excellent Sherlock Holmes, capturing his cold and dispassionate nature, whilst at the same time his excitement for intellectual stimulation and his theatricality.
Throughout Sherlock Holmes The Last Act, he portrays virtually all of the Holmes characters you can think of, from Watson to Mycroft to Moriarty to Mrs Hudson, and manages to delineate them all in a fireworks display of acting virtuoso. When Holmes and Watson argue or discuss cases, it’s easy to forget you’re just watching one person.
The play itself is a delight for anyone who is a fan of Conan Doyle’s stories, though parts perhaps could be omitted with not much lost. Watching Miles-Thomas re-enact The Hound of the Baskervilles in impressive technically, we don’t really learn much new about the characters or their relationships.
The idea of Holmes as an old man trying to live without his constant companion is a fascinating premise that could have been explored more. However, as an authentic impeccably acted overview of a beloved character, Sherlock Holmes The Last Act is a delight.