Venue: Gilded Balloon, Teviot Row House
With its intimate setting and well-cast leads, The Return of Sherlock Holmes at the Gilded Balloon fizzes with potential but misses opportunities to truly shine.
As the play has just two characters, it is heavily reliant on the dialogue between them to tell the story. In some aspects, this works well. Both actors have commanding stage presences and build a rapport with the audience throughout the play; Michael Roy Andrew at times appears to question the audience about the murder at the heart of the play, drawing us into his thoughts. They also use the stage space well, although it is sparsely furnished. Such reliance on dialogue, though, means that at times the play seems to drag, especially towards the middle. Opportunities for humour are often under-used, and would perhaps add some balance here.
It is, of course, difficult for Nigel Miles-Thomas and Roy Andrew to bring originality to their characterisation when they are playing two characters as famous as Holmes and Watson, and perhaps inevitably the play utilises tropes associated with the pair a little too much. Several recognisable quotes and props are dropped into the play with a heavy hand. The quieter aspects of the performance are in fact more effective; the handshake the two men share initially appears awkward, but in fact conveys the mental, as well as physical, distance between them. Similarly, Miles-Thomas’ simple pleasure at a dinner invitation from Roy Andrew aptly conveys his desire to reconnect.
A murder mystery such as this must necessarily create and maintain an atmosphere of dramatic tension, and the production stumbles slightly here. An eerie voice at the very beginning of the play sets the scene well, and the tinfoil-covered windows of the small venue are reasonably successful at blocking out the afternoon light. However, the hastily wrapped-up conclusion gives the impression that the play is being hurried along, and perhaps a run-time of over an hour may have allowed for more audience immersion.
With some adjustments to structure and timing needed, The Return of Sherlock Holmes has the possibility to be as well-loved as the characters it depicts.
Dates: 5th-29th August 2021
Image: Gilded Balloon Press