On Saturday June 8, 2013, a group of dedicated Sherlockians from Dallas piled into two Hansom cabs and headed to Houston. The three and a half hour trek turned out to be unremarkable but the anticipation grew worrisome as the local Houston traffic drew to a crawl when the group made it closer to their downtown location. The reason behind the trip was a visit to the Alley Theatre where they were staging Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club. With the assistance of an iPhone GPS, the group arrived thirty minutes prior to the opening of the curtain.
The Alley Theatre runs a Sherlock Holmes play just about every year and each time the attendance is tremendous. Saturday’s performance was no exception. With a seating capacity of 824, Saturday’s matinee featured very few empty seats. This production featured a circular stage, with one section about three feet wide near the outer portion of the stage which rotated. This allowed the actors to stand on this part and then rotate out of the scene. In one particular scene, Holmes and Watson walked in one direction as the section rotated in the opposite direction, giving the perfect allusion of the pair walking through the streets of London while in the same point on stage.
Each actor delivered his or her line in a loud and succinct fashion and was clearly heard throughout the theatre. There were a few drawbacks, such as Dr. Watson not having a moustache. Also the allusion to Holmes’ 7% cocaine use even though the play was set in 1914, well after any mention of drug use in the Canon. However, the final scene’s subtle touch far out-shines these minor distractions. In the final scene, the audience was treated with a little bit of Sarasarte‘s Carmen Fantasy #1, a piece of music with which Holmes was surely familiar.
The play, written by Jeffery Hatcher, is based on the characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and those in the Suicide Club by Robert Louis Stevenson. It is an interesting bit of history that Doyle and Stevenson both graduated from the University of Edinburgh and were equally attracted to each other’s work. Sadly, Stevenson’s premature death occurred before the two great authors could collaborate in real life. With Mr. Hatcher’s deft hand, the audience witnessed what might have happened.
Todd White, Sherlock Holmes, plays the lead role with the right touch of haughtiness and aplomb. Sidney Williams, Dr. Watson, was more in the Nigel Bruce vein, and pulled it off extremely well, even sans the moustache. Happily, Moriarty and Irene Adler made no surprise appearances. They seem to invade nearly every Holmes production ever staged. There was a Russian prince and a French lover and even an Inspector that was not named Lestrade or Gregson. The host of other players each accomplished their roles flawlessly.