Adaptation Discussion · Play Reviews

Sherlock Holmes and the Conundrum of Conan Doyle- Play Review

Written by Jim Clelland (@UrbanSpaceman64)

We stand and we wait. There is nothing else to do. There are a lot of people waiting outside the entrance. Some are chatting with friends and acquaintances, some are smiling, some are silent, staring into the distance lost in their own thoughts. As we stand and wait, a small elderly, white haired woman passes along the line of those of us attending the event, handing out pamphlets. The pamphlet reads… “Royal Albert Hall. Memorial Service to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.”

We enter as and when we are instructed. We take our seats quietly as organ music plays. We look at the stage. As we enter, we are greeted by a very elegant and handsome looking woman. She is dressed in grey, with a small but smart hat upon her head. This is Lady Jean Conan Doyle, widow of the man we are hopefully about to contact. As she greets us and moves amongst us, thanking us for attending, she moves to a small table. The table is sparse, but the object she is reaching for is a framed photograph of her late husband. She smiles, weakly and with much sadness. She replaces the frame on the table and… Wait! Who is this? There is a tall, heavily dressed man with a scarf obscuring his face. He is looking behind curtains, under chairs, under the table that Lady Jean has just moved away from. Who is this man and what does he want? He is revealed by Lady Doyle as none other than her husband’s own creation and he is here to investigate the conundrum that was Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle, Doctor of Medicine, ships surgeon, general practitioner, writer of adventure and detective stories and believer in the supernatural.

How could a man of science believe in life after death? Believe in the spirit world? Believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden? A lengthy and animated discussion takes place between Lady Doyle, the medium who is here to contact Sir Arthur, and Mr Holmes, which makes for an interesting hour.

We were not standing outside the Albert Hall, we were standing in a corridor of a hotel in Edinburgh waiting to enter a room, for this was a performance at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe of Sherlock Holmes and the Conundrum of Conan Doyle written by Annie James and directed by Annie Begg.

The ladies who greeted us were actresses Angela Duguid as Lady Jean Conan Doyle and Annie Begg as Estelle Roberts and the legendary Mr Sherlock Holmes was Andrew Cameron, all performers with the Quids In Theatre Company. This was a highly entertaining hour of point and counterpoint on the beliefs of one of the world’s best-known authors. It was well written, well-staged (a minimal set, which is usually best when it comes to intimate one or two or three or four handers) and very well performed. The cast gave dignity and life to each character and drew us into the story of Doyle and some of his beliefs. If you see this production advertised, I will recommend you go and see it. After all, you can never get enough Sherlock Holmes, in this life… or the next.

For more Sherlockian theatre reviews and other literature fancies, subscribe to The Baskerville Pups. Articles shall be published every week for the holiday season. Cheerio!

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