REVIEW: A Double Helping of Sherlock

NODA's Mark Donalds gives his views on Phoenix's A Double Helping of Sherlock, written and directed by Valerie Bird and Daniel McCrohon.
Published by Mark Donalds on November 2, 2019

It is really encouraging to see local groups writing and performing their own material. A Double Helping of Sherlock comprised two one-act plays adapted from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels: “The Man With The Twisted Lip”, adapted and directed by Valerie Bird and “The Dying Detective”, adapted and directed by Daniel McCrohon. Conan Doyle’s connections with Southsea of course add extra interest.

“The Man With The Twisted Lip” came first. This was Valerie Bird’s first play, but you would not have known it – the dialogue flowed well and the action moved along at quite a pace. Geoff Pye was excellent as the Narrator - speaking from the side of the stage – and this was a good device for explaining a lot of the plot and keeping the story moving.

“The Dying Detective” came after the interval and was the more accomplished of the two plays, reflecting a stronger original story and probably Daniel’s greater experience in writing and directing. Although the plays had some actors in common, the casting was completely different from the first, and Chris Wrein gave us a very charismatic Holmes, matched nicely with Geoff Pye’s constantly bemused Watson.

The set was of a high standard and used for both plays with additions and changes of furniture and props to indicate different locations. The nature of the “Twisted Lip” story required many changes of scene and although the changes were carried out efficiently behind the curtain while the Narrator was speaking, they were a little distracting. With fewer scene changes, the continuity of “The Dying Detective” flowed a lot better.

Costumes used in both plays were good, especially for the ladies, giving a good feel for the period. Lighting and effects were used to good effect and innovative use was made of the auditorium as an alternative entrance to the stage. Pre-setting the beggar (nice performance from Keving Stokes) from the first play in the audience, scowling at us as we came in, was an inspired touch.

I must commend whoever produced the good quality, stylish and informative programme (sadly, they omitted their own name). An excellent example of how amateur theatre can often out-perform the professional world.

Well done Phoenix Players – you had obviously put a lot of effort and dedication into writing and staging these two Sherlock Holmes stories, sticking very much to the spirit of the originals and making for a most entertaining evening.

© Copyright 2019 The Phoenix Players (Portsmouth). A charity registered in England and Wales, number 1060156
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