Filled with intrigue, murder and treasure, Nick Lane’s adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s second Sherlock Holmes novel is thoroughly engaging to watch.
Sherlock Holmes is such an iconic detective and having been brought to film and TV screens on many occasions it can be difficult to find a new way to bring him and his stories to life. Yet by bringing the detective to the stage in this way, Nick Lane’s adaptation and production manages to retain the spirit of the original story and its characters.
Based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s second Sherlock Holmes novel, The Sign of Four is an engaging blend of mystery, murder and treasure that is compelling to watch with all of its twists and turns. The story begins with Mary Morstan arriving at 221B Baker street to request the help of the the detective and Dr Watson in solving the mystery of her missing father, taking the trio into a world of corruption, betrayal and murder.
Through his adaptation and production, Lane faithfully ensures that the Victorian setting is captured perfectly to ensure that the audience is effectively swept into the world of Sherlock Holmes. This is reinforced through Victoria Spearing’s rustic and imaginative designs and authentic costume design by Naomi Gibbs.
But as well as the unfolding mystery, the story is very much focused on the different relationships that emerge. In particular, the central one between Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson has to be spot on to be utterly convincing that they make a great team. In this case it is utterly convincing – in fact the way in which it is portrayed by Luke Barton as Sherlock Holmes and Joseph Warrington as Dr John Watson makes them seem like a married couple, adding extra humour and depth to the friendship as well as the working relationship. The way in which Watson berates Holmes for not having shoes and socks on early into the show is actually quite charming.
There are so many intricacies to the story- particularly when it comes to portraying the mysterious story about two men double-crossing a group of four convicts and escaping with fortune in ancient jewels, but it is handled with great flair and imagination, through the which it is staged but also through Claire Childs’ atmospheric lighting. Everything feels seamless, while ensuring that there is enough intensity to keep the audience’s attention – particular after a murder is committed.
The cast themselves are all very impressive too. Barton as the iconic detective gives him charm but with a hint of eccentricity that works well alongside Warrington’s sensible if occasionally blundering Watson. The other cast members also have to play instruments as well as several different characters – but handle it all admirably. There is a wonderful diversity of characters and performances that keep this production compelling to watch.
Overall, Nick Lane and Blackeyed Theatre have produced a production that effectively remains faithful enough for Sherlock Holmes fans to enjoy but also newcomers to the story are able to feel thoroughly invested with the outcome of the plot. Plenty of action, intrigue and humour make this an entertaining watch.
By Emma Clarendon
Sherlock Holmes: Sign of Four is available to stream until the 15th July through Blackeyed Theatre’s Youtube Channel.