Sherlock Holmes: A Working Hypothesis, York Guildhall Council Chamber, August 11 to September 21

Dominic Allen and George Williams

Dominic Allen and George Williams

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DOMINIC ALLEN, lynchpin of many a Belt Up Theatre show, and George Williams, he of the mellifluous voice in Bristol travelling troupe Fine Chisel, are teaming up for the first time in Alexander Wright's original drama, Sherlock Holmes: A Working Hypothesis.

Directed by Tom Bellerby, this Flanagan Collective premiere will take up residence in the York Guildhall Council Chamber for six weeks from Monday before touring.

Made in association with York Theatre Royal, Wright's interactive play promises riddles to solve, games to play, a treasure hunt, sword fights and a free glass of wine.

His story is set three years after the Reichenbach Falls, when Allen's Sherlock poses as a Professor of Criminology, giving a lecture on himself, the great detective and master of deduction.

Closest friend Dr Watson had presumed him dead, but now the pair reunite and hurtle headlong into a new mystery because arch-nemesis Moriarty is ready for one final battle.

Contemplating adding his name to the pantheon of Sherlocks, Dominic says: "You want to avoid any clichés or tropes, but at the same time there's a danger of trying to reinvent the wheel, and I don't think I've ever done something that's had so much anticipation before."

George takes the history in his stride.

"You have to accept that some roles, in Shakespeare or Holmes and Watson, are so well known that there's an element of passing on the baton. The physicality of Watson, or Lear or Falstaff, it would be churlish to go against that."

What will be unique, as with any Holmes and Watson partnership, will be the actors' chemistry. Allen and Williams will be performing together for the first time.

"We're spending a lot of time together outside of rehearsals," says George.

"We've found common ground with the personalities that we bring to it," says Dominic.

"A sense of humour is important too, especially as a lot of the humour in this play comes from their relationship."

"And it's there in Alex's writing," says George. "In rehearsals, I'm really enjoying the snappy bits where we bat the ball back and forth to each other....

..."And finish off each other's sentences," says Dominic.

Wright's script presents Watson as the everyman hero when the world looks to Sherlock Holmes to be the superhero.

"Perhaps even more so now, in the light of the past five or ten years, there's a feeling that there a few at the top who are determining the fate of the majority, and that's an important thing for writers to explore," says George.

"I don't feel I know enough about anything, be it banking or politics, but there's a fair amount of game playing going on, where a few people's behaviour is affecting the lives of many, many more. Not wishing to get too heavy, but these are timeless problems and that's what theatre addresses."

Assessing the obsessive, self-absorbed demeanour of Holmes, Dominic says: "I suppose it's like an atom bomb; a rather grand parallel to draw. He'll get it done but there might be quite a bit of a fall-out, though it probably has a bit more finesse than a bomb.

"It's the end justifying the means. Who do they do it for, these superheroes? That's what the play examines. We seek superheroes, people who are capable of heroic acts, because it empowers us as well, so we're exploring a post-modern take on that in Alex's play. Do people's lives factor into Homes's calculations? I'm not sure they do."

Dominic describes Holmes as a "high status character who, if he is to maintain his position, can't allow any deflation of that status".

"The challenge is to balance the humour with the cold, calculating mind, because he's a very obtuse character; not someone where you go, 'Oh, I know someone like that'. You don't."

Watson is the devoted assistant, the self-sacrificial one for the greater good.

"That's another thing that's prescient about this play. At a time when we're bombarded with focusing on the self more and more, and presenting this nice, shiny image of the successful self, it's even more important to celebrate the role of those who are vulnerable, like Dr Watson."

Dominic notes how Dr Watson has arrived at the point in Sherlock's behaviour where enough is enough.

"He's asking him questions, asking 'why are you even bothering with this? Surely there's a more sensible way out that doesn't involve civilian casualties?'."

Wright sets A Working Hypothesis in 1963.

"It's never directly marked out, but I feel there's a sort of Cold War atmosphere; an international world of paranoia and suspicion and big things to deal with," says Dominic.

"It's a tumultuous period of history where people are looking for superheroes when the solution may be closer to home."

 

• Only One Question for...

Alexander Wright, writer of The Flanagan Collective’s new play Sherlock Holmes: A  Working Hypothesis

Why have you called your new Sherlock Holmes mystery  A  Working Hypothesis, Alexander?

“Two reasons. Firstly, ‘a working hypothesis’ is what Sherlock Holmes always says he needs to develop. So you develop it and stick to it until you get evidence against it, which is how Sherlock works out his cases.
“But also, in this story, Sherlock Holmes is posing as a Professor of Criminology, giving a lecture about Sherlock Holmes entitled A Working Hypothesis."

 

• The Flanagan Collective presents Sherlock Holmes: A Working Hypothesis, York Guildhall Council Chamber, Monday to September 21, 8pm plus 3pm Saturday and Sunday matinees. Please note: the show involves audience participation, including interval games and tasks. Recommended age: ten plus. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk

 

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