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Sherlock Holmes and the Invisible Thing review at Rudolf Steiner Theatre, London – ‘old-fashioned and lacking in energy’

Stephen Chance and Philip Mansfield in Sherlock Holmes and the Invisible Thing at Rudolf Steiner Theatre, London. Photo: Alastair Hilton
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The Rudolf Steiner Theatre, situated just off Baker Street, is an appropriate home for a small-scale Sherlock Holmes drama. Take Note Theatre’s show might appeal to the Holmes tourist trade but there’s very little else to recommend it.

Greg Freeman’s story, based on the characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle, sees Holmes called in to solve a series of mysterious deaths. It’s actually not a bad yarn, incorporating piracy, prostitution and slavery, with a touch of Eastern mysticism thrown in for good measure. Freeman’s plot has promise, but the pacing is lethargic and tonally uncertain, falling somewhere between the original short stories and the melodrama of the John Barrymore movies.

Stephen Chance may look the image of Holmes but he is so dwarfed by his deerstalker and Inverness cape that it looks parodic. It doesn’t help that his dead-pan, low-energy performance doesn’t really power-up until the second half. There are some nicely earnest scenes with Imogen Smith’s enigmatic housekeeper but Freeman’s play never delves too deeply.

David Phipps-Davis’ direction is stiff and old-fashioned, and though designer Leah Sams creates a suitably gothic set on a budget, the production’s few special effects are decidedly lacklustre.

Neither a parody nor a straight drama, audiences in search of either will be sorely disappointed.

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Stiff and old-fashioned Sherlock Holmes adaptation that’s distinctly lacking in dramatic energy