Tag Archives: Luke Barton

“Sherlock Holmes and the Valley of Fear” at the Greenwich Theatre

Director and writer Nick Lane has experience when it comes to Arthur Conan Doyle’s work. A previous adaptation of The Sign of Four was entertaining but this new production is even better – harder working and more serious. In addition to a fine mystery story, a “snorter of a case” for Sherlock Holmes, we get romance in America’s Wild West. Sherlock Holmes and the Valley of Fear is great value, high quality theatre.

Lane’s adaptation is smart. Flipping back and forth between crimes in Sussex and Pennsylvania is a sensible change from the source material and is impeccably handled. Tristan Parkes music for the show aids comprehension and creates atmosphere.

The lead performers are experienced, too. Luke Barton is an energetic and sometimes playful Holmes. Joseph Derrington is an affable Watson you can care about. Watson’s narration is a highlight – wonderfully clear – while identifying Holmes as the one with “the true flair for drama” shows both the character and Lane as astute observers, adding insight and theatricality to the master detective. Barton and Derrington have fantastic chemistry and there is a tender moment between them, superbly acted, that is further neat addition on Lane’s part.

Blake Kubena and Alice Osmanski

There’s more, namely the valley of fear itself, which we visit a lot. The supporting cast takes on a lot of roles. Blake Kubena makes a fine romantic lead, while Gavin Molloy has a good line in psychopaths (there’s a bold twist in the adaptation here that’s a real delight). Alice Osmanski is particularly hard working with characters that are less well written and a lot of costume changes (well done to designer Naomi Gibbs).

Even Barton and Derrington double up roles. The extra parts they play make clever contrasts and they perform them well. The production does need another body (two more wouldn’t hurt), but the cast gets to impress by bringing so many characters to life. A great job from start to finish with big brains behind it.

On tour until 26 November 2022


Photos by Alex Harvey Brown

“Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of Four” at the Greenwich Theatre

Director and writer Nick Lane’s adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s novella is at its best when it takes its subject seriously. Lane appreciates that this “pretty little mystery” is an adventure story full of exoticism and he balances this trio of ingredients well. With some sensitive taming of the more unwholesome Victorian values, the show makes for comfortable entertainment with a traditional feel.

The production isn’t without humour, nowadays it’s hard not to smile at Sherlock’s old-fashioned ways. But comedy moments – a poor running joke and a bumbling police inspector – are disappointing. It’s much better to be intrigued with Holmes as a hero. Thankfully that’s the strategy followed most and just the quality Luke Barton, who takes the part, encourages. With notable understatement and a cool edge, along with a nice notebook, Barton cuts a dashing figure.

Dr.Watson also benefits from being credible rather than comedic. Joseph Derrington takes the role and excels as a narrator, taking us through the action and guiding our responses to other characters with skill. Derrington gives a sense Watson can hold his own against Holmes so that the friendship between the two men has depth. And he does well with the insipid romantic subplot.

Joseph Derrington as Dr.Watson and Ru Hamilton as Thaddeus Sholto

Lane has chosen a tough text to bring to the stage. Like many a Conan Doyle story The Sign of Four has plenty of far-fetched elements and these are, mostly, dealt with well. Presenting Holmes as a master of disguise is pushing it too far. And that we never actually see the murderer on stage might frustrate some, although it’s really a sensible move. But when storytelling is to the fore the production takes off. Atmospheric musical accompaniment from Tristan Parkes and Victoria Spearing’s flexible set create a surprising sense of luxury. And some of the hard-working cast get a chance to shine; Ru Hamilton does well as both Major Sholto and his son, while Zach Lee has a strong section explaining the mystery. These flashback scenes show Lane’s directorial strengths and his appreciation of the text as you snuggle down to enjoy a great story well told.

Until 11 May 2019 and then on tour


Photos by Mark Holliday

“Romeo and Juliet” at the Greenwich Theatre

Merely Theatre has a commonsense approach to its policy of ‘genderblind’ casting. A crew of ten pairs up to rehearse roles and half of the actors perform at a time – regardless of their gender. It’s a voguish idea that scholars and pundits love to comment on but, for director Scott Ellis, it’s more about equal employment than proving a point. Thankfully, Ellis appreciates that what matters to the theatregoer is a great, well-acted play, and that’s what he aims for.

For my trip, Emmy Rose took the role of Juliet, giving a bracing “headstrong” rendition, alongside a clear-eyed and heroic Luke Barton as Romeo. There’s a strong sense of suicidal teenagers battling against the world. Barton is full of petulant frustration and Rose is wonderful when she rejects advice from her trusty old nurse. With only five in the cast, there’s a lot of doubling up, most startlingly when Rose plays an aggressive Tybalt. Pairings add a frisson without feeling theorised.

It is Merely Theatre’s ambition as a repertory group that really marks it out – the company is also performing Twelfth Night. The simple set and everyday costumes (Florence Hazard) give an air of travelling players. The cast works slickly and tightly – support and encouragement are palpable. Among multiple roles, Tamara Astor’s nurse, Ffion Jones’ Paris and Hannah Ellis’ madcap Mercutio show that comedy is a particular strength. Frequent direct appeals to the audience are consistently successful. That the plot remains clear is a huge achievement on everyone’s part.

Some character changes make your head spin and overall the production is too speedy. “Light of foot” is one thing but the pace here left me, if not the cast, breathless. The focus is on action, justifying abbreviations, so there isn’t time for any sense of foreboding to develop. But, while some tension is lost, attention is gripped. I can report that a young audience gradually tore themselves away from their phones. That’s big praise nowadays.

Until 22 April 2017


Photo by Jamie Scott-Smith