After speculating on the origin and demise of fictional Sherlock Holmes, writer David Stuart Davies examines the motives of factual Arthur Conan Doyle for creating, and later trying to destroy, his most famous character. The result is an uneasy blend of styles.
Director Gareth Armstrong uses deep shadows and disorienting noises to establish a melodramatic atmosphere. A more comedic or abstract approach might have been appropriate for a play in which the central concept is absurd. Try this for size: characters realising that they are fictional and uniting against their creator.
Stuart Davies does not stray too far from his comfort zone but the dramatised extracts from the Holmes stories, whilst pleasing to the audience, lack relevance to the concept and feel like padding.
Sole performer Roger Llewellyn holds the whole show together. He enjoys adopting a wide range of styles including a naturalistic editor of the Strand magazine and a bonkers medium. Best of all is the contrast between the sinister and calculating Moriarty and the urbane and precise Holmes.
The impression formed by The Death and Life is that those involved have more sympathy for the character created by Conan Doyle than they do for the actual writer.