Thursday, 23 September 2010

Listen:// Sherlock Holmes - The Last Act

Buy From: Big Finish
It is 1916 and Sherlock Holmes has returned to his rooms in Baker Street after attending the funeral of his long time associate, Dr John H. Watson. Holmes reflects on the old days and comes to realise that not only was there so much that he had shared with Watson in his lifetime but also there was so much that he had not revealed to him: things he had kept hidden, including his deep affection for his friend. Imagining that Watson is present, Holmes addresses this failing and touches on aspects of past cases and the various characters he encountered during his investigations, including ‘The Woman’ Irene Adler and of course Professor Moriarty.

Holmes delves deeper into the darker aspects of his own history, revealing at last a shocking secret. Realising now how lonely and isolated he is without his old comrade, adrift in a new modern and war-ravaged age, he comes to wonder whether, like Watson, he too has come to the end of his time…
 Besides all the science fiction and fantasy I read, I count the Sherlock Holmes books among my all time favourites so I'll often digest anything I find set in that universe. Whilst I love the originals, I don't have any particular problem with people playing in that world. I know some people can get obsessed with canon, and keeping things true to the originals, but I think it's such a great character and setting it deserves to be reinterpreted, rebooted, and generally messed around with.

I'd vaguely heard of the stage play of The Last Act but I've never been able to make it, so I was pleasantly surprised when I spotted that the Big Finish Sherlock Holmes series would be kicking off with a audio production of that play. It's a single actor piece starring Roger Llewellyn as Sherlock Holmes performing a monologue to a deceased Watson. It's incredibly well written, and manages to squeeze a huge amount of detail from the original books in, indeed it would server as a great introduction to anyone who has not yet read the books. At the same time as the 'Sherlock for beginners' detail we are also getting an insight into the mind of the great detective who proves to be a little more flawed than he seems at first glance.

Roger Llewellyn is outstanding as Holmes, I really would love to see him in one of the original stories now I've heard this. He has that exacting tone, slightly dark, very funny in places, and full of emotion. It's a performance worth hearing. He also plays the other characters, or more precisely plays Holmes playing the other characters, and jumps between them seemingly with ease. I'm not so keen on some of the others voices, though it is supposed to be Holmes playing them so the fact that they tend towards the exaggerated probably makes sense.

I can't say much more without spoiling the plot, it's a relatively short listen at 2 hours and definitely worth it. I'll leave with a clip of the stage play...

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