Often heralded as “amongst the greatest crime novels ever written” one can only imagine that this adaptation (2013) by R. Hamilton Wright and David Pichette might well cause Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to rise from the grave and obtain Holmesian revenge and his estate to seek damages for false representation of the master’s most intriguing tale of greed, red herrings and justice for all.
The artistic trust (Wright and Pichette along with director Craig Hall) have—inadvertently—proved the latter’s assertion that “I won’t claim to be a lifelong Sherlock Holmes fan,” play fast and loose with the novel (adding a part for Mrs. Hudson—Claire Jullien coquettishly self-identifying as Edith when there is a potential love object in sight), send Laura Lyons to oblivion (presumably this sub-plot doesn’t open itself to yuks) and rewriting the final dénouement in a manner that would make even the most ruthless Hollywood producers take offence. Shame on you all.
Not dissimilar to the equally suspect rendition of Henry V in the trenches (and largely with the same actors—cross-reference below), the cast take the comedic bit and—with nary a “grin grin, wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more”—dig deep into their considerable farcical talents: gluing the production together as Dr. Watson, Ric Reid’s “The game is afoot” subsequent throwaway line is a hoot; Damien Atkin’s Scottish brogue is spot-on while his impersonation of a dinner party “guest” soon tires with the overused Dr.-Watson-got-the-name-wrong-again shtick.
Not content with laughs trumping real terror and drama (only the brief projection of a massive hound’s jaws induced any chills: the onstage version of the hound—sporting bloodshot eyes—was miles away from the expected phosphorus-fuelled, fiery lenses and fangs), the physical humour would be more at home on the set of a Three Stooges movie. (Patrick Galligan, playing butler Barrymore, gallantly trying to breathe life into the “take my coat/no you won’t” gag being just one sad example).
Nonetheless, the opening night crowd appeared to savour every bit of the contrived humour, perhaps not realizing that it is more the minds of Holmes and Watson that are to be admired and not their mad descent onto the moor of vaudeville. JWR