Sherlock’s Poisons

Lantern Light Theatre

The Round Tower, Portsmouth

Part of Portsmouth City Council’s Arts Council-supported Summer of Sherlock, a season of events celebrating the best known creation of Portsmouth resident Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Brighton’s Lantern Light Theatre presented two performances of Sherlock’s Poisons, a new play produced, written and directed by Sophie Flack.

The title’s clear; it’s a focus on the use of poisons and drugs, both in the stories adapted here, and in Victorian life. There’s a light-touch educational aspect – I hadn’t known that Doyle (himself a doctor) conducted drug experiments on himself and observed and reported the results. His scientific background informed his character’s abilities.

Duncan Drury’s all saturnine intensity and driven brilliance as Holmes, striding off into flights of intellectual and scientific discovery.

Stewart James Barham doubles as a picky and precise Doyle, meticulous observer of his own drug reactions, then as Afghan war veteran Watson, gradually drawn into Holmes’ strange world, both as confidant and steadying anchor.

Tom Dussek switches character and voice with energy and style, as Mr Roundhay the anxiety-struck vicar, posh opium addict Isa Whitney and South African lion hunter, explorer and avenger Dr Leon Sterndale.

Sophie Flack as Miss Mary Tregennis, vividly recounting the horrors she’d seen, with an unexpectedly creepy moment as she makes her last appearance, is the heart and soul of this pacey and gripping production.

Portsmouth’s historic Round House is a terrific small theatrical venue, a vaulted brick cavern with some infant stalactites and a backdrop of barred windows looking onto the sunset and the sea.

This space has great acoustics, too; the show’s clever soundscapes sneaking round the central column and curving along the round walls. Shifting coloured lighting effects evoke mood and place – Holmes and Watson’s Victorian London flat, an opium den, a Cornish cottage.

Just one note – I’d have loved to see some liquids going into bottles and test tubes, and perhaps a few live chemical reactions too!

If you’re in town, do take a look at the fascinating Sherlock Holmes exhibition in Portsmouth Museum.

More about the Summer of Sherlock productions and events from Lantern Light Theatre

More about Summer of Sherlock