Blackeyed Theatre have adapted Arthur Conan Doyle’s fourth novel, The Valley of Fear (1914), a complex tale for Holmes and Watson set in two countries and two time periods.
The play begins when Holmes receives a cipher from an informant, suggesting an imminent crisis involving a man called Douglas. When it transpires he has been brutally murdered, the “game is afoot”.
Moriarty is involved, of course, which gives Holmes the chance to battle once more with his greatest adversary. With lots of whos, whys, whens and wherefoes, this adaptation whizzes along with a small cast playing multiple parts.
The first act sets the background, the second heads into fast-paced action as the truth unravels. It’s all very well done, even if there isn’t quite as much Holmes throughout the show as aficionados might like.
Picking a story from the canon that is lesser known (with few screen adaptations) may have been a risk, but a lack of familiarity works in The Valley of Fear‘s favour.
Very atmospheric and with seamless swaps between the scene of the crime and an American town under gang law twenty years earlier, Nick Lane’s adaptation has some very good performances, notably Joseph Derrington’s Dr Watson.
Luke Barton’s Holmes is a man of logic and calm. Quickly he spots the holes in the story, and his step-by-step conclusion shows his sense of justice. As bad guy Bsldwin, he displays a sense of action and spirit.
Every female part from Mrs Hudson to the spiky police chief is tackled by Alice Osmanski, who also displays a sense of comic timing as the murdered man’s housekeeper.
Perhaps the best character work is from Gavin Malloy, who has six very different roles to tackle. Blake Kubena leads the flashback story, which dazzles with fights, gun play and more, thanks to action director Robert Myles.
Sherlock Holmes: The Valley of Fear is a rollicking tale and it even has a couple of musical interludes in scene changes to set the mood, composed hy sound designer Tristan Parkes.
You can watch this digital production for 72 hours after access – it is available from 20 October 2022 to 22 January 2023. Get your tickets here.
Image credit: Alex Harvey Brown