‘SHERLOCK HOLMES…THE DEATH AND LIFE’

The first time I saw Roger Llewellyn’s sublime one man performance as the near unbalanced and eccentric consulting detective Sherlock […]

The first time I saw Roger Llewellyn’s sublime one man performance as the near unbalanced and eccentric consulting detective Sherlock Holmes was in 2001. ‘The Last Act’ was set after Watson’s funeral in the backdrop of  World War One. Holmes is sat alone in Baker Street, everything he once knew and held dear in the world has changed around him. He feels out of place in the world, out of touch and out of time. He reminisces of old adventures with his loyal companion, confessing past sins, and finally reveals the painful truths to his departed friend about his youth and upbringing around an alcoholic and violent father. I enjoyed Robert Llewellyn’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes so much that I went to see him again the following year. I have come to look at Roger Llewellyn as a definitive performer of Sherlock Holmes in modern times, second only to Jeremy Brett.

2009 saw a new production of Sherlock Holmes being toured around the UK.  ‘Sherlock Holmes…The Death and Life’ combines the worlds of fiction and reality as we shift between Doyle’s inner psyche and Sherlock Holmes’ fictional world of 19th century London. Doyle has grown tired of being referred to as ‘the Sherlock Holmes man’ and has decided, once and for all, to kill off the great detective – favouring to write about the fantasy and spiritual worlds – his latest obsession. He invents arch villain Moriarty to eliminate the detective.

During a confrontation between Holmes and his nemesis at 221b Baker Street, Moriarty reveals to Holmes that they are both mere works of fiction; the foggy London surroundings merely infantile window dressing for the sleuth to inhabit. Even his faithful Boswell – Dr Watson – is a mere conduit through which Doyle channels his fiction. During a spirit meeting Doyle is confronted by Sherlock Holmes. He persuades Doyle that because he exists in the dark recesses of his mind, he cannot be destroyed; he will always live on as an immortal work of fiction.

Sherlock Holmes…The Death and Life sees Roger Llewellyn pull off another masterful and frighteningly real portrayal of the world’s first consulting detective. The play is both light hearted and downright cutting in places and Llewellyn makes it look easy as he seamlessly morphs into several characters – including Holmes, Lestrade, Moriarty, and Doyle – with no more than a some subtle lighting and a change of hat; expertly altering the tempo of his voice, demeanour, gait, and mood. The grace and ease at which Llewellyn brought these characters to life is a clear reflection of his passion and knowledge of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional world.

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