Tag Archives: David Phipps-Davis

Sherlock Holmes And The Invisible Thing

Rudolf Steiner Theatre

Sherlock Holmes And The Invisible Thing

Sherlock Holmes And The Invisible Thing

Rudolf Steiner Theatre

Reviewed – 25th July 2019



“well written and highly entertaining, with plenty of wit and a pinch of whimsy”


Nearly a hundred years after the last Sherlock Holmes stories were published, it’s pretty amazing that he still thrives in contemporary culture, with a Hollywood franchise and a major television series to boot. This is certainly not a case of a forgotten character’s revival. But it seems we can’t get enough of the eccentric detective, and ‘Sherlock Holmes and the Invisible Thing’ is a welcome addition to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s ongoing legacy.

Sherlock Holmes and his trusty side-kick Dr. Watson are called to the house of one Miss Lucy Grendle, to solve the murder of an unknown man, pushed in to the lake by “unseen hands”, as observed by an anonymous witness. The perfect mystery for a virtuoso such as Holmes. The play, written by Greg Freeman, unfolds to reveal most of the trappings of a Conan Doyle whodunnit, with scatterings of red herrings, seemingly tenuous pieces of information linking neatly together, and a farcical undercurrent. The final reveal, however, leaves the audience wanting. Without giving too much away, Freeman provides plenty of intrigue and suspense, but seems at a loss with how to satisfactorily explain an “invisible thing”.

Stephen Chance’s Sherlock is fairly sombre, but whilst we’re missing a little vigour, he captures Holmes’ knowing smugness and condescension flawlessly. Vanessa-Faye Stanley (Lucy Grendle) combines a Victorian seriousness with slight melodrama, providing plenty of nuanced physical comedy amongst a well fleshed-out performance. Philip Mansfield makes for a charming, if slightly hammy Dr. Watson. Doug Cooper, playing the part of the bumbling local police inspector, gives an adequate performance, though he leans a little heavily on a cockney accent to give flavour to his character. Imogen Smith, playing the put-upon house servant, though she says little, has a weighty presence.

The set (Leah Sams) is fairly traditional – a Victorian style living room with lots of dark wood, heavy wallpaper and renaissance paintings. But there’s enough to keep the audience engaged, without distracting.

Director David Phipps-Davis clearly knows that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s formula is a winning one; there are no modern bells and whistles, beside a welcome strand of potential romance for the private detective. Whilst the usual flawless narrative logic of the Sherlock Holmes stories is slightly lacking here it’s still well written and highly entertaining, with plenty of wit and a pinch of whimsy.


Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Alastair Hilton


Sherlock Holmes And The Invisible Thing

Rudolf Steiner Theatre until 18th August


Previous shows covered by this reviewer:
Operation Mincemeat | ★★★★★ | New Diorama Theatre | May 2019
The Millennials | ★★½ | Pleasance Theatre | May 2019
Hotter | ★★★★★ | Soho Theatre | May 2019
Dark Sublime | ★★★ | Trafalgar Studios | June 2019
Garry | ★★★ | White Bear Theatre | June 2019
Pictures Of Dorian Gray (A) | ★★★ | Jermyn Street Theatre | June 2019
Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare: Hamlet | ★★★ | Leicester Square Theatre | June 2019
The Knight Of The Burning Pestle | ★★★★ | Barbican | June 2019
Rust | ★★★★ | Bush Theatre | July 2019
Oddball | ★★★½ | King’s Head Theatre | July 2019


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The Importance of Being Earnest

Tabard Theatre

Importance of Being Earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest

Tabard Theatre

Reviewed – 9th June 2019



“it is ultimately the cast’s joyful delivery that decorates this production with festoons of colour”


Despite the initial success of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest”, its opening coincidentally marked his fall from grace at the height of his career. Wilde would write no further comic or dramatic work and his notoriety caused the West End premiere to be pulled. Even the ensuing Broadway run closed after just sixteen performances. It is a sad paradox that mirrors those firmly embedded in his writing but, fortunately for theatre audiences worldwide, the play survived and has stood the test of time; to become what has been described as “the second most known and quoted play in English after Hamlet”.

This familiarity can be a curse as well as a blessing for directors. David Phipps-Davis’ production at the Tabard Theatre, however, certainly falls into the latter with its lovingly faithful and light-hearted joyride through the lives and double lives of these mischievous characters. Yes, we may be on very safe ground, but the cast of eight keep us on high alert throughout with their expertly subtle handling of the text. Nothing seems overplayed, which allows space for the nonsense and illogicality to leap out of the dialogue.

The bizarre plot ridicules Victorian sensibilities, but here, set three decades later in the twenties, it loses none of the punch. It is the story of two bachelors, John ‘Jack’ Worthington and Algernon ‘Algy’ Moncrieff, who create alter egos named Ernest to escape their tiresome lives. Attempting to win the hearts of two women, the pair struggle to keep up with their own stories and become tangled in a tale of deception, disguise and misadventure.

Samuel Oakes as ‘Algy’ and Tim Gibson as ‘Jack’ have a natural onstage chemistry, bouncing off each other while pitching the dialogue with the ease of a juggler. Throwing their lines into the air, they never let any of them drop. Lady Bracknell is similarly natural, played with a welcome understatement by Non Vaughan-O’Hagan who neatly highlights the snobbery and materialism without resorting to caricature. Melissa Knighton captures the curt crispness of Gwendolen’s unassailable pretension in a strong professional debut performance. Kirsty Jackson occasionally slips into jarring histrionics as the hopeless romantic, Cecily, but otherwise endears us to her mad-as-a-hatter waywardness. Jo Ashe sparkles as her governess, Miss Prism, refreshingly unveiling a softer side with flirtatious asides that belie the prudish veneer. The apple of her eye is Canon Chasuble, played by Dean Harris who never fails to put a smile on your face when he wanders, bumbling, onto the stage. And to cap it all Paul Foulds gives a star turn as the valet, the butler, the gardener, the chauffeur and Mr Gribsby – the solicitor who turns up to arrest Algernon for unpaid hotel bills – a ‘lost’ character reinstated by Phipps-Davis from an early draft of the script.

Lacking the darker undertones of Wilde’s earlier work, this interpretation is playful and stylised but measured out strictly within the confines of respectability. While Leah Sams’ costumes are as colourful as the language, the inbuilt irreverence sometimes appears monochrome. But it is ultimately the cast’s joyful delivery that decorates this production with festoons of colour.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Andreas Grieger


The Importance of Being Earnest

Tabard Theatre until 23rd June


Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Lady With a Dog | ★★★★ | March 2018
Sophie, Ben, and Other Problems | ★★★★ | April 2018
Sirens of the Silver Screen | ★★★ | June 2018
Sexy Laundry | ★★★ | November 2018
Carl’s Story | ★★★★ | March 2019
Harper Regan | ★★★★ | May 2019


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