Theatre review – Sherlock Holmes – The Final Curtain at the Opera House

I’m going to start with a sincere apology to Liza Goddard.

She has such a wealth of stage experience behind her, that for me to bring up the Give Us a Clue theme tune seems very wrong.

I know I shouldn’t mention it but it’s like a scratch I have to itch. Please forgive me reader and theatre-goer (and do pity me with my full permission) but I’m afraid I’m unable to hear Liza Goddard’s name without the jazzy joy that was the intro music to charades based celebrity TV spectacle Give Us a Clue, bursting into life in my very soul.

Click here for perfection itself

Such is the mark on me, that I’m equally unable to hear Liza Goddard’s name without immediately thinking

and Lionel Blair!!!!

But to many this odd memory of mine is merely serving to delay the crux of the matter – the play that is Sherlock Holmes – The Final Curtain – showing at the Manchester Opera House until this Saturday 28 July, 2018.

Starring  the both immensely talented and respected Liza Goddard and Lionel Blair!  Robert Powell (I’ll spare him any clichéd reference to a specific role – again sorry Liza), the two actors have proven once again what a dream team they are, this being their third stage production together.

And so we move swiftly on from the strange word of my childhood TV memories and to, eventually, the infamous Baker Street in the post-war 1920s.

Simon Reade’s play introduces us to a Sherlock Holmes (Powell) who is now in his dotage and living in Eastbourne. It is somehow funnier than it should be that he has elected to evade detection of himself by declaring himself to be ‘Sherlock Smith’.

In the week where Manchester’s Bee in the City has seen lots of the little fellows popping up all over the centre, it is apt that bee-keeping is somewhat central to the plot.

The play certainly ticks all the Sherlock Holmes boxes:

Pipe ✅

Drugs ✅

Baker Street ✅

Numerous mentions of ‘arch-nemesis’ Moriarty ✅

Dr Watson ✅

In fact the latter, warmly and humorously depicted by Timothy Kightley is, in a sense, our narrator for the evening, embracing new technology and appearing on BBC radio to take listeners through one of Sherlock Holmes’s casebooks – the tale we then see unfold.

It is no spoiler that a dead body on Sherlock’s private beach (no less) kick starts matters and heralds the arrival of Watson’s now estranged wife Mary (Goddard) who commands the stage and indeed story with a certain authority.

Bringing tales of visions of the Watsons’ deceased son, James, into the mix, Holmes (or ‘Smith’) is encouraged by Mary to return to Baker Street where she and Dr Watson are now co-habiting – the latter having moved into psychoanalysis.

Scenes of a seance caused me a wry smile, given my attendance at one of Derek Acorah’s shows in this same theatre some years back.

Let’s say this show was more successful at ‘conjuring’ up the spirits than poor Derek that night.

The play doesn’t necessarily provide any stand-out moments. It ambles along and tells its tale, the actors delivering well the material in hand.

I was, however, fascinated by the role the ‘title’ player ‘the curtain’ holds throughout. As each time the curtain swept from stage left to right (and vice versa) the scenery and actors would have changed by the time it reached its destination.

In fact it became somewhat of a game for me to try and catch a glimpse of the sorcery going on behind (I managed one pair of feet – bravo all in involved!).

And so whilst I would say there is nothing here to astound, perhaps there doesn’t need to be. It’s a quintessential English story that entertains. Whilst the first half may not quite leave you yearning for more, the second half picks up the pace.

There’s even an ‘elementary’ thrown in, for good measure.

For more details, times and tickets, visit The Opera House/ATG tickets website.

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