The last production that Rumpus Theatre Company toured along the South Coast was John Goodrum’s simply superb adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s horror story, The Pit and The Pendulum, a piece that was gripping from start to finish, with a twist at the end that many in the audience didn’t see coming.
Rumpus Theatre now launches their latest national tour and, again, it is a Goodrum adaptation. This time it is Arthur Conan Doyle’s story, A Study in Fear, that is presented and I have to say that, although I always try and look for whatever redeeming features a production may have, in all honesty, this is possibly the worst piece of theatre that I have ever seen – and I have seen a lot over the years!
Although a certain amount of licence should be given to the fact that this is the very first public performance of the piece, nothing can excuse the poor acting, the shabby and sparse scenery, the corny lines and the incredibly predictable twist towards the end.
The play is mainly a two-hander, with all of the action set against a backdrop of two walls, sponge painted in orange and green, and a set consisting of half a dozen chairs and one table. This represents everything from Dr Watson’s house to a railway station, to the breakfast room of a Meiringen hotel and to the famous Reichenbach Falls themselves. Sadly, the lighting effects are so amateurish that, mostly, it just looks like two walls and a surfeit of chairs.
Holmes is played, fairly well, by Nicholas Briggs who, although he displays the pomposity associated with the character, seems too distracted to be the eagle-eyed detective with a forte for spotting, almost impossibly minute, details.
Ian Sharrock takes the other main role, that of Dr Watson, and he gives a performance that would seem over-the-top in the worst Am Dram production imaginable (with apologies to the many, brilliant, Am Dram companies that are out there). His lines are shouted not spoken, his mannerisms over exaggerated, facial expressions forced to the point of looking painful and he insists on playing to the gallery – in a theatre that has no gallery!
The third role in the piece, played by David Martin, is listed as the Railway Porter in the programme, and to divulge his other roles in the piece would be to give away what little of a plot there is, and it is he who has to reveal the twist in that plot – a scene that was so corny and predictable that all he needed to finish it off was a long moustache to be twisting.
As a lover of all things Holmes, I really had high hopes for this production but, for me, the enormous snore that echoed around the theatre in Act Two summed up the performance.