Tuesday, 25 March 2014
Theatre review: A Study in Scarlet
For a novel that launched a publishing phenomenon, A Study in Scarlet is clumsily structured. The first half of the book is Holmes' investigation, the second half a flashback to Utah, and the backstory that would eventually lead up to the murder.
Lila Whelan and Greg Freeman's adaptation wisely ditches this structure and instead has the play alternate between the London scenes and those of Lucy (Stephanie Prior) and Jefferson Hope (Elliot Harper) whose illicit love affair came a cropper at the hands of evil Mormons. The cast briskly flip between outfits and accents to tell both stories, and the full picture comes together quite satisfyingly.
Benjamin is a bit too light-hearted a Holmes, getting the detective's gleeful smugness at his own superiority but not hinting at any complexity underneath. And apart from Holmes' own violin-playing, the actor-musician format feels crowbarred in, never organic to the story, with some of the bigger performances jarring with the context. So I'm still not convinced the choice of material is the best fit for the way the company works, but for the most part it's a fun evening, that does quite well with a book that's not an obvious candidate for adaptation.
A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle, adapted by Lila Whelan and Greg Freeman, is booking until the 12th of April at Southwark Playhouse's Little Theatre.
Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes including interval.