Theatre and Sherlock Holmes, the world’s greatest detective, and a risky Edinburgh Festival Fringe booking for me as while I’ve enjoyed the movies and TV, I struggled with Arthur Conan Doyle’s books. Perhaps I tried to read them when I was too young.
As for the theatre risk? I’m an uncouth geek more used to flickering screens or giant robot princess warriors of anime stories.
It was a risk that paid off as James Nicholas delightfully entertained me as Sherlock Holmes, while Darren Haywood was superb as the expressionful Watson (and everyone else).
The 2023 Sherlock Holmes: The Speckled Band is an adaptation of the 1892 original The Adventures of Sherlock Homes serial from The Stand Magazine.
It’s a locked room mystery, and the dying woman’s last words draw attention to “the speckled band”. I suspect modern audiences, should they not know the story, will solve it quickly due to our exposure to murder mysteries.
I winced a little at the talk of Gypsies outside on the grounds of the Stoke Moran estate, naturally and without discussion, among the suspects merely for being there. That, I am sure, is a product of the time and which Nicholas felt significant enough to include in this stage version and, sure enough, here I am talking about it, so perhaps that’s proof he was right.
What to expect
Sherlock Holmes: The Speckled Band is in the comfort of one of theSpace venues at Surgeons Hall, but in the Haldane Theatre, so some background noise might get through curtain guarded walls. It was not a problem for my visit.
The show is entirely Darren Haywood and James Nicholas with a few crates and a spare jacket in period costume.
It’s a 50-minute show, rated for ages 8+, and who am I to cast doubt at an 8-year-old’s ability to sit through theatre? There were young teens just a few rows from me who gave the two talented actors their full attention for the duration.
A little audio adds layers of escapism to the performance, but Darren Haywood and James Nicholas conjure everything to life. Haywood, in particular, grabs your attention and holds it. Nicholas is more aloof as Holmes.
Some consider The Speckled Band the best of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, and it’s certainly one of the darker ones. It may well change your view of the character.
Vibe and Performance
I was impressed, pleased and relieved because as the show started, I was not sure it would hold my attention.
“Is this it?” may have been a thought that entered my mind. If so, it vanished quickly.
It’s a professional performance, but it’s hard to describe. It’s not “powerful” in the sense of impactful; The Speckled Band didn’t make me think (beyond thinking about how horrid the 19th century was to Romany), but it certainly had through.
It’s a consummate performance. That’s the word I’m going with. An exemplary stage play, perfect for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and paying appropriate care to such a popular story.
I rarely comment on costume, not having much wired up regarding fashion in my brain, but I also want to call out the attire sported by both actors. I think it made a difference, as with the light application of sound effects, the fancy shirts, jackets and hats did help transport me to the weird, wonderful and sometimes dangerous world of the 221B Baker Street detectives.
This stage show is a thoroughly and safely enjoyable adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes: The Speckled Band. Guinness World Records says Holmes is the most portrayed character in film and TV history, and here Blue Orange Theatre add one more worthy tally to that list.
A review of Sherlock Holmes: The Speckled Band