Theatre in Wales

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Holmes “the Effective Detective”- With a Touch of Indiana Jones

At Black Rat

Black Rat & Blackwood Miners' Institute- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , November 8, 2023
At Black Rat by Black Rat & Blackwood Miners' Institute- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes The articles below looked at a company that so beset itself with questions.

“What is theatre and what can it be? What is the role in the civic life of its nation? Where is it in the cultural landscape? As the world shifts on its axis, what is the role of the arts in society? How do we connect?”

Theatre is elastic. Richard Eyre in the last century looked to “the unique properties of the medium- its use of space, of light, of speech, of story-telling; its theatreness, its many forms- the spectacle of an anguished vicar standing on an illuminated, cross-shaped stage, a king struggling for reason and dignity while strapped in a strait-jacket, an angel ascending over the head of a man dying of AIDS...”

But it is at least made of these:


One hundred and fifty people, weathering the aftermath of Storm Ciaran, have come together at Aberystwyth Arts Centre. In the front row a twelve year old and family member sit by a pensioner, adjoined by two students. The communion, individual and collective, can be heard in laugh-out-loud enjoyment. The same population mix can be seen across all the rows.


Two acts; four actors; a first act that ends on a climax. The word “Moriarty” is uttered. Robin Bainbridge's lighting drops to pick out the faces. They are a tableau scene from Caravaggio. Daniel Llewelyn-Williams has a lot of detecting to do with hardly a scene in which he is absent. This Holmes is fierce in defence of his art. “The destruction of a clue”, he tells Watson, “ is more criminal than the crime itself.”

He plays his violin to stimulate thought. His eyes execute a 360-degree swivel. One guise involves a little cross-dressing as a Russian medium. Two spirits are summoned up from the other side. They engage in dialogue, Llewelyn-Williams drawing on deep guttural tones, two of them, in counterpoint.

Owen Pugh's Watson is not cast in the stolid Nigel Stock mould. He is perkier, more energetic, and gets to stand on one hand. At the climax he hangs high above London on the minute hand of Big Ben. If the metal hand makes its way to the vertical all is lost for monarch and realm.

Zoe Davies and Pedro Lloyd Gardiner inhabit fifteen roles between them with athletic ingenuity. Gender roles are swapped and accents vary at speed.


The action spins across London north and south. A ferryman of character, another part for Pedro Lloyd Gardiner, takes the venturers across the water. George Alex Hainsworth's design is a stage-wide frieze that shows all the locations. The inner scene in Baker Street has a range of portraits. The action requires sixteen costumes by Abigail Gould.

The action moves to a music hall stage where Irene Adler sings her last note before succumbing to poison. Later a viper rears up from a basket of lavender. A flashback restages the death struggle at the Swiss Falls. Holmes swings perilously on a rope strung across the balustrades of the Whispering Gallery, Conan Doyle meeting Indiana Jones.


The King of Bohemia enters 221B Baker Street to set the action going. The King enters a second time to end the action. The last words play to the audience's knowingness. A new client is a-knocking at the downstairs door. “Let him in” says Holmes.

“He says it's something about a dog”, says Mrs Hudson, “His name is Baskerville.” And in between there is pattern and consequence, ebb and flow, crescendo and diminuendo.


A work is connected to what has gone before and what is to come. But is also a thing unto itself. Richard Tunley directs and writes the script. There is a touch of the Da Vinci Code to it. Holmes and Watson are propelled from location to location across central London, uncovering a series of gnomic messages based on nursery rhymes. On each occasion a corpse falls before them, felled by poison or a pistol pointed from the wings. One late victim has, reports Inspector Lestrade, been interfered with. A citrus fruit is involved. “Lemon entry” says the master sleuth.

Holmes astounds his amanuensis with his genius for insight. Manifestly Saint Paul's Cathedral is associated with Switzerland, the land where Holmes had thought he had seen off his nemesis at the Reichenbach Falls. In the crypt the cathedral choristers learn how to address the acoustic challenge. A mastery of Alpine yodelling, he says, is the key.

A few miles west the crack detective is swift to see the Swiss link in Trafalgar Square. Cast your eyes upwards, he advises Watson. See Nelson and it all falls into place. During languid days on the ocean the hero-admiral would cheer his crew with fondue,. One hand on the tiller, says Holmes, and one hand dipping his little bread-cubes into a pot a-bubbling with a cheese, wine and garlic mix. And just a touch of kirsch.

“Was that before he lost his arm?” asks Watson., ever the good doctor.

On a few occasions the company burst into song- music and lyrics from Kieran Bailey. Queen Victoria belts out verses on the nature of regaldom. All pay tribute in song to the detective who is really effective.

So to all those questions in the first paragraph. The thing is just to do it. Plautus had his audience a-rocking. “Lysistrata” became “Lisa's Sex Strike” when revived with glee by Northern Broadsides. Much has changed since Plautus and Aristophanes . But much has not. Black Rat's 2023 outing has 150 people whistling, clapping and cheering.

A few minutes later Sherlock has shed his cap, his cape and his meerschaum pipe. He is the man from Gwent with the city of the flying bridge- not Sunderland or Rochefort- in black t-shirt resting up on a sofa in the bar area. His theatre company, an Edinburgh staple, has flown to Alelaide and New York City, California and Vienna.

In the case of a venue a mere hundred miles from home Holmes concludes “it was a great audience.”

“The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” toured October and November to

Blackwood Miners’ Institute
Memo Arts Centre, Barry
The Met Abertillery
The Coliseum, Aberdare
Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon
Park & Dare Theatre, Treorchy
The Grand Pavilion, Porthcawl
The Lyric, Carmarthen
Mwldan, Cardigan
Pontardawe Arts Centre
Stiwt Theatre, Wrexham
Ffwrness, Llanelli
Aberystwyth Arts Centre
Theatr Hafren, Newtown
Borough Theatre, Abergavenny
Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Cardiff

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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