Audio Drama Review: The Last Act

The Last Act brings Roger Llewellyn’s long-running, Sherlock Holmes, one-man play to audio. The story finds a somber Holmes reflecting on his life and career after Watson’s funeral. It’s an emotional and occasionally heartbreaking performance as Holmes reflects on his friend and his career. “You never appreciate the best things, the best people, until they’re gone.”

Not every moment is somber. There are humorous moments as Holmes will reflect on one of his friend’s oddities or on Lestrade’s unremarkable career that saw him never rise above Inspector.

The play covers a variety of ground. From “The Abbey Grange” to “The Speckled Band” “The Final Problem” and “The Empty House” and The Hound of the Baskervilles and many more, Holmes offers his reflections on his cases and it’s a Tour de Force performance.

I enjoyed the second half far less as it offered insights into Holmes’ dark secrets, including his little discussed childhood. On one hand, this explained Holmes being merciful in one particular case. On the other, there’s a certain modern conceit that tries to explain everything anyone does as a result of some childhood trauma to provide motivation. This can be seen in superhero fiction where so many characters’ origins are being rewritten reflect that sort of trauma. It becomes somewhat monotonous in fiction when no one ever does anything good, noble, or heroic unless a parent was killed or was abusive, or some other trauma occurred to explain it.

I also didn’t like the way Holmes’ drug use was addressed. In the books, Watson claims to have weaned him off cocaine. However, the play insists Holmes’ use continued unknown to Watson and it leads the play into a dour place. While some would argue this is more realistic than the books (which removed the cocaine habit as it became socially unacceptable) and it might be clever to undermine audience expectations by moving from downbeat to depressing, I wasn’t pleasantly surprised by the turn.

Still, the play is well-written even if I have issues with the tone, Llewellyn’s performance as Holmes (and twelve other characters) is pitch perfect and thoroughly engaging. He captures Holmes as a man trying to come to terms with the greatest loss in his life as a lifetime of emotional restraint begins to ebb away. I only wish the play had a more satisfactory conclusion.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5.0

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  1 comment for “Audio Drama Review: The Last Act”

  1. July 5, 2015 at 11:46 am

    Dear Adam, this is interesting about Holmes’ drug habit. As I remember from Sir Arthur’s writings Holmes always used it when he didn’t have a case and was depressed because he was idle. As for Watson’s funeral I do not remember reading this in The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s very thick book which I bought when I was in The States for a grand total of $5.00 and I had it for some 50 years before I gave it to a book sale and now wished I hadn’t. As I remember it, in Holmes’ Final Case, it was Watson who was the one who was left to grieve over, what he thought at the time, his friend’s dead. Of course, we know he returned to Baker Street and startled Watson as we can well imagine he would be to find out that Holmes was still alive.

    Regards

    Joan from Southern Ontario

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