Aside from viewing stage and screen works that feature the cast and crew of Sherlock, we occasionally like to touch on other interpretations of the characters. Following our review of Sherlock Holmes: The Death and Life last year, we’ve finally been able to see the companion piece to that play – Sherlock Holmes: The Last Act.
This long running play again features Roger Llewellyn as the sole occupant of the stage. Written by David Stuart Davis before The Death and Life, The Last Act is a more direct piece of work, existing solely within the fictional world of the characters rather than spinning out into any sense of post modernism or self awareness. Like The Death and Life though, this play is concerned with the legacy of Sherlock Holmes as a character, but whereas the later play is fixated on reinforcing the enduring nature of the character, here there is a dark, tragic finality to the man.
Performed on a sparse set with minimal props and dressing that represents the interior of 221B, the narrative is set after the chronological events of His Last Bow, and sees Holmes returned to London from Sussex to attend the funeral of his great friend, Doctor John Watson. This use of an older Holmes, coupled with Llewellyn playing all characters onstage, is actually very moving, presenting a clear portrait of a great friendship through the absence of one half of the partnership, while also hinting at the possible degeneration of the Great Detective’s faculties. All of the famous elements and quirks of the character are deployed for the casual theatregoer. Much of the play is concerned with Holmes recounting his past exploits and greatest cases, from his first meeting with Watson in A Study in Scarlet, the marriage of Watson spun from The Sign of the Four and Holmes’ musings on Irene Adler as a result, his confrontation with his nemesis Professor Moriarty in The Final Problem, fending off a deadly reptile in The Adventure of the Speckled Band, the encounter with a monsterous hound in The Hound of the Baskervilles, and many more besides. While it sounds like a recounting of material we are overly familiar with, this reverie is actually highly revealing of the character’s desires, fears and weaknesses and leads to a ‘fictionalised’ revelation of Holmes’ origins in the second half, where he finally reveals to his deceased friend the moment that effectively created him. Without giving it away, this reveal makes entirely logical sense within the canon, and doesn’t contradict anything within it. And most importantly, as the multi-faceted title hints, the play imagines a final conclusion for Sherlock Holmes, spun out of his dire warning at the close of His Last Bow about the encroaching dark future. It is a powerful and very tragic end for the man, but culminates in a literal shaft of warm light at the last moment.
Throughout, Roger Llewellyn’s animated portrayal of Holmes and the other characters is nothing less than remarkable. As in The Death and Life, his appearance as Moriarty is a particular highlight, his face and form shadowed and hidden through strong lighting and a top hat. But here it is his Holmes that is most striking, shown as a man who has lost all who surrounded him and in many ways redeemed him, his voice cracking when his mind turns to the loss of his greatest friend and revealing the fondness for Watson that he often failed to impart in life, to his evident regret.
As a play, this is perhaps a slightly lesser work than its quasi sequel. The Death and Life uses the work of Conan Doyle to state that fiction can transcend those that write it; The Last Act makes the point that eventually, all must die, no matter how revered they may be. Taken together though, both act as strong counterpoints to the notion of fiction, and it is a brave piece of work that actually depicts the definitive end of Sherlock Holmes, ultimately succeeding where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did not.
Big Finish have recorded an adaptation of the play, performed by Roger Llewellyn, and released it on CD, available for purchase from Amazon UK.
- ottery-kisses likes this
- gottingen likes this
- sophieag34 likes this
- nessun-dove reblogged this from sherlockology
- nessun-dove likes this
- laughingacademy likes this
- gypsypeutetre likes this
- shubhangikarmakar likes this
- sherlockseesthrougheverything likes this
- lapetiteteapot likes this
- attababyeatsomepeaches reblogged this from sherlockology
- attababyeatsomepeaches likes this
- trishiajanine likes this
- dokutafuuu likes this
- clio-mokona likes this
- deebauchery likes this
- theleagueofgentlemens likes this
- lobak3 likes this
- dingelchen likes this
- consultingt-rex likes this
- alitbitmoody likes this
- sherlockology posted this