Posts tagged ‘West Yorkshire’

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.

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March 5, 2013

Yinka Shinobare MBE: FABRIC-ATION

Last week I had the great fortune to be invited to a special preview evening at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in advance of the opening of a major new exhibition, FABRIC-ATION, from Yinka Shinobare MBE.

I have to admit that I’d not heard of London born, Nigerian raised Shinobare before, but I did know one piece of his work – Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle – because it was on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, and is now on permanent display in Greenwich. It’s his movement towards the creation of works both for public spaces and for the open air that makes it a perfect time for this exhibition at YSP, and the commissioning of two new pieces of sculpture, which are part of this exhibition and titled Wind Sculptures, underlines this. I loved the fact that he asked the general public what they’d like to see on the Fourth Plinth, and that Nelson now is a recurring theme through his work.

In the hours spent at YSP viewing this exhibition, and listening to the curator, I’ve gone from knowing nothing of Shinobare to being a firm fan. The entire collection is suffused with a sense of playfulness and yet the subjects chosen are those of the most serious, from climate change to class inequalities and the historic pursuits of the aristocracy. Revolution Kids, half-human, half-animal sculptures carrying replicas of Gaddafi’s golden gun and Blackberry phones, are Shinobare’s response to the London riots, and convey perfectly the way in which he manages to mix the serious with the playful to create work that is really engaging, and almost comical, yet with a serious underbelly that occasionally has a rather more sinister feeling to it.  Food Faeries (about the globalisation of the food market)  is a pair of headless sculptures of winged children carrying fruit that really made me shudder a little.

Revolution Kid (Fox Boy) Copyright: Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Revolution Kid (Fox Boy) Copyright: Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Colonialism, race, globalisation and identity are also recurring themes, and Shinobare uses ‘authentic African’ batik fabric – which was first mass produced in Holland and sold into West Africa in the 19th Century – as a way of confounding expectations.

Alongside the thoughts of identity come those of ‘aliens’ – which made me think of refugees and human ‘aliens’, and here Shinobare again turns the idea of alien life on its head, with the inclusion of flying machines more akin to Leonardo’s inventions than what we expect from science fiction.

Alien Man on Flying Machine (2011) Copyright: Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Alien Man on Flying Machine (2011)
Copyright: Yorkshire Sculpture Park

A really diverse range of work is on display from the period 2002 to 2013,  including film, photography, painting and collage as well as sculpture, which demonstrates Shinobare’s desire to be impossible to categorise. It feels like a wonderful opportunity to really learn a great deal about his work over the past decade.

I truly loved this exhibition and I think that everyone would find something about it to enjoy, whether that is the boldness of the satire, the contrast between the seriousness of the subjects and the fun of the interpretation, or even just the bright colourful nature of each piece of art.

The exhibition is at the beautiful Yorkshire Sculpture Park until 1st September 2013 and I will definitely be returning for another viewing of this remarkable artist’s work.