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Sherlock's Last Case (Newbury)

A new version of Arthur Conan Doyle's classic creation at the Watermill is "more a ‘what if?' than a deconstruction".

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Christopher Godwin, Adam Katz & Alister Cameron
© Philip Tull

The unlikely writer of this oblique take on the life of the great detective is that enfant terrible of the 1960s stage, Charles Marowitz, better known for devising happenings and deconstructing Shakespeare. But here, apparently, are all the familiar well-loved characters.

Christopher Godwin's expansive, omniscient Holmes has Adam Kotz's apologetic Watson bustling along in his wake, their every need attended to by Alexandra Mathie's faithful housekeeper Mrs Hudson, complete with delicious Scottish accent. Alister Cameron's slow but steady Inspector Lestrade – complete with policeman's helmet (as I presume inspectors wore them in good Queen Victoria's time?) – brings up the rear.

The first intriguing addition to this cast of regulars is the young and feisty Liza Moriarty, who delivers a death threat. She is, of course, the daughter of the late and legendary villain. Liza is a breath of fresh air in Victoria Groves' attractively vigorous performance. Would it be giving too much away to praise Roger Covivati for his authentic portrayal of a much more dangerous scion of the house of Moriarty – his vengeful son, Mark?

Suffice it to say there are plenty of twists and turns in Marowitz's skewed version of the antics of Conan Doyle's creations, which is directed by Maria Aitken with all the panache you would expect from the director of the hugely successful stage version of The 39 Steps.

Marowitz probably does succeed in turning preconceptions and expectations on their head. And yet in some ways this remains classic Conan Doyle, entirely faithful to its creator. It's probably more a "what if?" than a deconstruction, and in the end it is still no more than an ingenious take on an old favourite with a bracing dash of Grand Guignol, including a scarily authentic skeleton providing a frisson.

Still, all of this is played to the hilt by this fine cast on Simon Kenny's superb set. Kenny joins the long list of designers who have risen superbly to the challenge of designing for this small, intimate theatre, here with a terrifically detailed reconstruction of the drawing room of 221B Baker Street complete with exterior walls built as a natural extension of the theatre's walls, with literally a "pull back and reveal" when occasion demands!

- Judi Herman