Watson: The Final Problem makes its Adelaide debut following sold-out seasons at the 2021 and 2022 Edinburgh Fringe. Glowing reviews followed and are well deserved – the 60-minute show is a knockout.
Written by Tim Marriott and Bert Coules and performed as a monologue by Marriott, the play is based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Marriott is a British actor, director and playwright, whom fans of the BBC series The Brittas Empire will remember for his role as Gavin Featherly. Coules writes for radio, television and the stage, and has created original scripts for the BBC radio series The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, as well as an earlier Holmes radio series.
The stage for Watson is set to resemble a Victorian-era residence, with a hat stand, wooden chest, desk, chairs and small side table. Dr John H Watson – our storyteller – is in despair, alone and yearning to set the record straight on how this came to be.
With only a few simple props, some sound effects and subtle lighting changes, Marriott takes us on a thrilling ride through Watson’s life and the final days of his dear friend and roommate, the crime-solving sleuth Sherlock Holmes.
The script is dense and absorbing, and the pace is furious, but Marriott’s masterful characterisation of multiple roles means the hour flies past and we never get confused about where we are in the story. We revisit key moments in Watson’s life (his war service, medical practice and marriage to Mary Morstan) and accompany him as he flees London with Holmes, pursued by the criminal mastermind Professor James Moriarty.
Action shifts back and forth between the battlefield of Afghanistan, the UK capital, France and Switzerland. It’s here, at Reichenbach Falls, that Watson last sees the detective. Consulting his notebook to ensure his recollections precisely reflect the facts of what transpired on that fateful day, Watson reveals his impressions of events on the ledge above the roaring torrent of water.
Watson delves into the idea of “shadow selves” and the deep love of a man for his friend and his wife. There’s “drama, colour and the thrill of the chase”, interspersed with digressions that allow us into Watson’s turbulent past and Holmes’ obsession with Moriarty, in whom he saw the man he could have become if he’d given in to the darker side of his personality.
I came to the show with no prior knowledge of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. My companion had read them all. We were both equally enthralled and entertained by Marriott’s gripping presentation of this perfectly formed work.
Watson: The Final Problem is showing across three venues (Henrys at Ayers House Events, The Ballroom at Ayers House Events and Main Theatre at Kryztoff at the Goodwood Theatre) until March 18.
Read more 2023 Adelaide Fringe stories and reviews on InReview here.
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