If you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes (and I am pretty sure there are quite a few fans out there, especially in light of all the Sherlockery that’s been going on on our small screens of late) you might be interested to hear that there’s a Holmes play being performed in London this month – and it sounds brilliant.
‘The Final Revelation Of Sherlock Holmes’ was first staged, to much acclaim, at the Edinburgh Fringe back in 1987, but sadly hasn’t been seen again until now. I spoke to director Danny Wainwright, whose company, Let Them Call It Mischief, are behind this timely revival.
CM: Obviously, it’s about Sherlock Holmes, but can you give us an idea of what happens in the show? What themes does the play address?
DW: It’s difficult to say too much about the plot without giving it away! It’s a story which focuses on the relationship between these two ageless characters. It emerges that the perfect crime has been committed and only Sherlock Holmes can possibly solve it. An invitation to the Royal Society of Military Surgeons annual ball gives Holmes the perfect opportunity to share his revelation with the world.
CM: This is a revival of a show that first appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe in 1987. How successful was it back then and has it been produced again in the intervening time?
DW: The show did very well at the Edinburgh fringe in 1987. The fringe was a much different and smaller beast back then – you could even have an interval! It was taken back to London after the Edinburgh fringe in 1987, but it hasn’t been produced since. I’m really glad we had the opportunity to bring it back 27 years on.
CM: What attracted you to the play? Was the current success of Sherlock based TV shows a factor in your decision to stage it now?
DW: I was reading Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes on my kindle (other tablets are available but I don’t have them…). Tim (Norton) suggested that if I was interested in Sherlock Holmes, I should read a script he wrote a while ago. I read it four or five times and couldn’t understand why no one had done it for 27 years! I have seen the new Sherlock and I really like it – but we’re not trying to emulate it! It’s set in 1930 and was written well before Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss had a chat on a train! I definitely think we’re bringing something different. I think they’re both great and the Sherlock Holmes fans that have seen the show already have said there is more than enough room for both of them!
CM: Has aforementioned writer Tom Norton been involved in the current production?
DW: Tim has been a massive support during the process. We’ve even used some of the props from the original show (although most of the design is completely original from Ele Slade) to have a connection to the original production.
CM: How did you prepare for directing this piece? Did you read any Conan Doyle? Field trips to Baker Street?
DW: I’d already read most of the canon before I’d read the script. I always feel there’s a danger that you can research around the script and not pay enough attention to the play – for me it’s similar in that way to doing a Shakespeare history, or a biopic. You have to concentrate on what the script says! It’s a play, not a documentary, after all. Of course it’s useful to have an in depth knowledge of the subject matter, which I think I do, but only in order to serve the script.
CM: The play is produced by Let Them Call It Mischief, of which you are a founder. What are your aims? Oh, and how did you come up with the name?
DW: Let Them Call It Mischief came about because I wanted (with fellow founders Tessa Gillett, Flo Buckeridge and Stephanie Hampton) to produce some plays written about London for a London audience. We started with ‘The Alchemist’ by Ben Jonson and then ‘The London Cuckolds’ by Edward Ravenscroft. A lot of people who came to see both of these said they hadn’t heard of the plays before they saw them – and they are great plays! Luckily for me there are plenty more of those to choose from for the next project.
Let Them Call It Mischief is the first half of a Ben Jonson quotation:
“Let them call it mischief: When it is past and prospered t’will be virtue.”
That’s pretty much what I think of theatre! If the audience has been entertained and had a good night out at the theatre, then I’m happy. It’s for other people to worry about its virtue.
The Final Revelation Of Sherlock Holmes is on at Pleasance, Islington, until 2 March. See this page here for more info and to buy tickets.