Like the stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Last Act combines melodrama and strong characterisation to produce great entertainment. Sole performer Roger Llewellyn chews the scenery interpreting the larger than life supporting characters.
His version of the main cast, including a reptilian Moriarty, is subtler. Holmes is a conflicted character striving to be coolly investigative in the face of great personal loss. Llewellyn brings a human element to the detective as his voice changes from an emotionless bark when solving his cases to a halting, confused tone as Holmes recalls his friendship with Doctor Watson.
Director Gareth Armstrong uses simple sound effects of amplified clocks and howling dogs to catch the oppressive and mysterious atmosphere of the era.
The first half of David Stuart Davies’ script is appreciative using extracts from the original tales to explain the motivation of Holmes. The second, more analytical, half is so ambitious as to offer a very downbeat speculation on the reasons for Holmes’ retirement. It is a valid conclusion and based upon the material in the stories. However, by that point Llewellyn has generated such affection for Holmes that you can’t help but wish the man a more dignified exit.