Review: Sherlock Holmes – The Valley of Fear, New Theatre, Cardiff

Andy Howells reviews Nick Lane’s adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes story, The Valley of Fear playing Cardiff’s New Theatre until May 26.

“Let’s investigate the drama!” commands Luke Barton’s fresh, exciting, energetic portrayal of Sherlock Holmes as Blackeyed Theatre’s presentation of The Valley of Fear gets underway at Cardiff’s New Theatre this week.

Following the receipt of a mysterious, coded message and a warning of imminent danger, Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson head into a tale of intrigue and murder at an ancient, moated manor house. The clues unearth a darker, wider web of corruption with links to the bleak Pennsylvanian Vermissa Valley, a secret society and the sinister work of Holmes’s adversary, Professor Moriarty.

The Victorian era setting, and classic ingredients of an Arthur Conan Doyle tale are all here, beautifully adapted for the stage by Nick Lane. The story neatly moves between the present and the past with specially composed musical interludes, involving the cast rearranging the props to suit the scene. Encompassing violence and gang warfare, the subject matter for The Valley of Fear gives the story a contemporary edge, resulting in scenes that will keep you hooked. This includes a scene featuring a flashback encounter with Professor Moriarty, which fits seamlessly into the narrative.

The cast, Luke Barton, Joseph Derrington, Blake Kubena, Gavin Molloy and Alice Osmannski take on a gamut of roles, each showing diversity with their characterisations and accents helping drive the plot along. Such is the pace of The Valley of Fear there are instances when an actor will reappear almost immediately after leaving the stage in another role and you don’t notice it’s the same one.

Undoubtedly the highlight of this presentation is Luke Barton as Sherlock Holmes and Joseph Derrington as Dr Watson. Both actors’ rapport is a delight to savour as they invest their energies in two characters that are poles apart but have the utmost respect for each other. Watson’s exasperation as Holmes applies his thinking machine mode to the crime scene with eccentric choreographic precision,” Holmes, are you dancing?” is an outstanding moment in live theatre, underlining the seriousness of the drama with gentle humour. If Holmes and Watson make further returns to the stage for further adaptations, they really couldn’t be in safer hands than these incredible actors.

There are two further performances of Sherlock Holmes – The Valley of Fear before the tour ends in Cardiff on Friday evening. If you love real drama, this is the definitive article!

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