How significant does it feel to stage a Sherlock Holmes mystery 200 yards from 221b Baker Street? Very! We caught up with director David Phipps-Davis ahead of Sherlock Holmes and The Invisible Thing‘s opening at Rudolf Steiner House in Marylebone. Time to get booking!
Holmes and Watson are called to investigate a murder seemingly committed by an invisible perpetrator. As they probe into the mysterious lakeside drowning, something startling emerges…
Take Note Theatre presents its brand-new production of Sherlock Holmes and The Invisible Thing at Rudolf Steiner Theatre, a stone’s throw from Holmes’ 221B Baker Street, for a limited season. Stephen Chance and Philip Mansfield are Holmes and Dr Watson in a cast that also features Doug Cooper, Imogen Smith and Vanessa-Faye Stanley.
Written by Greg Freeman and directed by David Phipps-Davis, Sherlock Holmes and The Invisible Thing was originally performed in 2016 at the Tabard Theatre in Chiswick, south London, and has been revised and restaged for the current run.
Talking to… David Phipps-Davis
Trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, David Phipps-Davis has directed over forty productions including plays, musicals, operas, pantomimes and a UK tour, including, at the Tabard Theatre where Sherlock Holmes and The Invisible Thing was first presented, See Me For Myself (which was nominated for an Off West End Award), An Ideal Husband and Ruddigore (which was Time Out Critic’s Choice). As a performer, credits include Gastone in Jonathan Miller’s production of La Traviata, Mr Bumble in Daniel Evans’ production of Oliver! at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre, The Phantom of the Opera and innumerable pantos, primarily as the dame.
Are you a Sherlock Holmes fan?
I am, yes. I probably first got interested from one of the films which were around in my youth – Young Sherlock Holmes is a likely contender, and I also liked Without a Clue (in which Michael Caine is Holmes and Ben Kingsley is Watson and it’s the latter who is the crime genius using Holmes as a front). It was the TV series with Jeremy Brett as Holmes and Edward Hardwicke as Watson which cemented my love of the characters, though. I later got to know Leslie Bricusse’s musical (yes, there’s a musical!) starring first Ron Moody and later Robert Powell.
What do you think stage versions bring to Holmes?
The reason I love theatre is that it’s live and you share it with the audience live – especially when there’s a thriller element to the story, that can get very collectively exciting. Moments of our play remind me of The Woman in Black and I LOVE that play, so that certainly made the project very appealing to me.
How did this play first came about?
It was first produced at the Tabard Theatre in Chiswick in 2016. I wasn’t involved in that production and didn’t see it. I’ve worked with the producers on several occasions and they decided they wanted a fresh pair of hands on this production, which is a revised version of the script. So I came on board and I brought with me my frequent collaborator Leah Sams, who is designing the set.
How significant is it to stage Sherlock Holmes in Marylebone?
I think it’s very significant – we’re bringing Holmes home! The theatre is literally 200 yards away from 221b Baker Street. I haven’t been to the museum yet, and probably won’t get the chance until we’re in preview, but I’m certainly intrigued to see what a museum for a fictional character is like!
Rudolf Steiner House is a venue most theatregoers won’t be familiar with. What’s it like?
I wasn’t familiar with it until I was approached to do this production. The building is stunning architecturally – Rudolf Steiner was himself an architect, amongst other things. Even from the street, the fascia is intriguing – almost no hard lines – windows and doors have scrolled features. And there is a magnificent marble staircase inside. The theatre is surprisingly large, with an equally large raked stage. But, even though it seats a couple of hundred, we’re keeping the production intimate by bringing the set beyond the proscenium arch into the auditorium.
Tell us about your cast.
Holmes is played by Stephen Chance, who has played the role twice before in two different plays. He looks a bit like Basil Rathbone, but that’s not the only reason we cast him – he’s also a sensational actor and a nice guy to boot! Watson is played by Philip Mansfield. I worked with Phil about ten years ago when he played Waitwell in my production of Congreve’s The Way of the World. I’ve wanted to work with him ever since, so when his CV came in through the casting breakdown, we just had to call him in. His audition was as strong as I expected it to be so it was a no-brainer to cast him.
The other major role, that of Lucy Grendle, is played by Vanessa-Faye Stanley. She’s worked in the West End and at the National Theatre in War Horse, as well as working for Kneehigh, Punchdrunk and at the Manchester Royal Exchange. There are only two other roles – Imogen Smith plays Grendle’s housekeeper Mrs Rochester a role that’s absolutely central to the plot. And Doug Cooper plays the bumbling police Inspector Peacock. Doug and I worked together five years ago – he played Robert Chiltern in my production of Wilde’s An Ideal Husband, so I was thrilled when he said he wanted to do this. And Imogen just blew us away at the auditions – so much so that we changed the ethnicity of the role!
Do you have a favourite line from the play?
Currently, my favourite line is unintended (or at least I presume Greg didn’t intend it) innuendo so I’m not sharing it as I am trying to do everything I can so the audience won’t notice it. However, Grendle repeatedly asking Holmes “Why do you care?” I find very effective – you’ll have to see the play to find out the context though.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Come to the play! You’ll laugh, you’ll jump and you might cry, too – what’s not to like?
Sherlock Holmes and The Invisible Thing runs from 17 July to 18 August 2019 at the Rudolf Steiner Theatre, 35 Park Road, Marylebone, London NW1 6XT, with performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7.30pm, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3pm. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!