Archive for May, 2013

May 27, 2013

‘Sherlock Holmes: The Best Kept Secret’ at West Yorkshire Playhouse.

On Thursday, I had the great pleasure of a night at the West Yorkshire Playhouse for a performance of ‘The Best Kept Secret’, a new Sherlock Holmes play written by Mark Catley.

It was only when I started writing this review that I realised that, on the quiet, I’m a bit of a Sherlock Holmes fan. I haven’t really considered it before, but I’ve watched both of the new Robert Downey Jnr. film adaptations, the BBC series’ ‘Sherlock’ and even ‘Elementary’ with Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Lui. I’ve enjoyed them all, with special reference to Benedict Cumberbatch, for reasons I won’t elaborate on here! And, of course, before all of these and previous TV incarnations, there are the books, which I’ve read and enjoyed too.

So, it probably comes as no surprise to hear that I loved this play. Really loved it. Sometimes, I go to the theatre, opera, ballet, gallery, to be challenged. To come away with questions, and to feel as though I’ve learned something at the end of it, or at the very least to have tried!

But other times, I just want to be whisked away from my everyday life and be entertained. To laugh, engage with a story, and be surprised that hours have passed and it’s the end of the show already. In a nutshell, that’s what this play did.

Warning: The rest of the post contains spoilers!

Setting the play in the Victorian period, rather than updating to contemporary London, gave the brilliantly rotating sets a wonderful, slightly sinister, Steam-punkish quality, enhanced by ever-present swirling smoke. Without wanting to give too much away, the play is set in the period after the events at Reichenbach Falls, which Holmes fans will know as the final showdown between Holmes and his nemesis Moriarty. The opening scenes (after a  brilliant first moment in which a rowing boat moves through the darkness) see a retired and broken Sherlock selling stories of his cases to pay the rent.  Once Holmes’ brother Mycroft is falsely imprisoned for treason, it is down to Holmes, the ever-faithful Dr Watson and ‘The Woman’ Irene Adler, to clear his name before he is hanged. Complicating matters are Andrew Langtree as the low-level journalist seeking more sensational stories and, of course, Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard, played with a dry wit by Victor McGuire.

Sherlock Holmes (Jason Durr) Photo: Manuel Harlan.

Sherlock Holmes (Jason Durr)
Photo: Manuel Harlan.

I really enjoyed the whole cast, although I have to say that for me, Kerry Peers as the poverty-stricken Mrs Peasgoode was a fabulous scene-stealer even from beyond the grave during a splendidly surreal moment in which Holmes is suffering under the effects of his opiate addition.

Jason Durr is a wonderful Sherlock, struggling with his afflictions, being painfully aware of his shortcomings – at one point asking for lessons in smalltalk –  and ultimately triumphing over a foe who seems to know his every move. Adrian Lukas plays his brother Mycroft  as an even more socially inept character, despite, or more likely because of, his genius and it is left to us to realise the way in which Sherlock’s relationship with Dr Watson (excellently played by Andrew Hall) has humanised him and made him more able to cope in the world, despite everything.

I read an interview with the play’s writer, Mark Catley, and he’s a big fan of Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy, amongst other wonderful shows) and I see real similarities in their style evident in this play. The fusion of pithy one liners with action, the feeling of being ‘an insider’ with the jokes, and the occasionally uncomfortable combination of the funny with the macabre gave me a feeling that this play didn’t take itself too seriously; perhaps summed up with the line “no shit, Sherlock” being used to great effect by Tanya Franks as Irene Adler. I loved that, despite the obvious comedic elements, there was a huge amount of attention to detail, from the deerstalker and pipe to the 221B painted on the outside of the front door. This may be a brand-new Sherlock Holmes story but it’s one that devoted Holmes fans will appreciate, I’m sure, for these little touches as well as for the story that kept me in its thrall the entire time.

The audience reacted incredibly warmly to the performance, there was much affection for it at the end, and everyone I was with commented that they’d had lots of fun.  The play is on at the West Yorkshire Playhouse until 8th June and then begins a tour before moving to the West End. If you’re looking for an evening of pure entertainment and a wonderful new story based on well-loved characters, then this is it.

May 20, 2013

Slow Blogging

Hello there,

It has been over a month since my last post. Just realised that sounds a bit like I’m at a Bloggers Anonymous meeting, but nonetheless, it’s true.

Big changes in my personal life, the usual work/life pressures and a desire to spend more time on the Sage & Thrift project are the main reasons  but to be honest, I’m also struggling to write. This blog has been my hobby for two years now. In that time, it’s brought me so much joy. But for the past month, phrases like ‘I must blog, I haven’t written anything for ages, I need to catch up’ have been on an endless loop in my head.

And yet, when I look out of my window, there is a noticeable absence of people waiting to break down the door and demand that I write a blog post. All the pressure is self-imposed. Since being nominated in the Blog North Awards – the best feeling ever – I’ve wanted to build on that success. To create an upwards trajectory, write more, gain more readers. It seems that the gods didn’t agree with that plan!

Previously, my three times a week schedule worked for me, but it’s no longer practical. I’ve been re-reading ‘In Praise of Slow’ by Carl Honore, which is one of my favourite books, and now I’m wondering if there could be such a thing as ‘Slow Blogging’? Not sure if it’s a complete contradiction in terms, but I think that fewer, more considered posts would count as ‘Slow’ – do you?

I’ve been striving to live Slowly (capital S intended here) in the rest of my life; seasonally, locally, taking time to consider the things that are important in my life, stepping away from technology sometimes and spending time on face to face interactions, not entering into lots of consumerism, and so on. It’s not always successful, but being considered in my approach to these things has brought me lots of happiness and it’s a cornerstone of Sage & Thrift too. Now I think I want to try to do the same with my blog. To slow down, take a breath and reconsider what it is about it that has always brought me such happiness in the past.

I like the idea of just writing once a week, and taking my time over each post, rather than trying to churn out a lot of content, purely to meet a self created schedule. It would enable me to work on Sage & Thrift (which I have big plans for) and make sure that when I do post something, it’s genuinely because I want to, not because I feel that I should, must, have to. I want to regain the feeling of joy that this blog has always given me and step away from feeling panic-stricken because life has got in the way of my three-times-a-week blogging schedule.

So, that’s the plan. I’ll be writing once a week, about the usual jumble of things that I’ve always written about, but I’ll do my best to make sure that each post will be worth your time reading. And, yes, I realise that even once a week is a self-imposed schedule. Old habits die hard. However, this will give me a way of fitting the blog into my life in a way that makes it pleasurable, and not a stick to beat myself with. You never know, it might be only temporary. I might suddenly find a fit of energy and write every day!

I joked about ‘Bloggers Anonymous’ but this has felt a bit like a therapy session for me. Thanks for reading. Normal, albeit ‘Slower’ blogging will resume shortly …