"Do Go into the Cellar!"
by Avril Silk for remotegoat on 16/05/16

My first visit to Burnham-on-Sea’s delightful Princess Theatre was an outstanding dramatic experience. Most of the credit for that goes to Jonathan Goodwin’s beautifully observed ‘Singular Exploits of Sherlock Holmes’, but some needs to be reserved for my gallbladder which decided to enter into competition with Jonathan. Anyone who has ever experienced that particular pain will appreciate that the acting must have been exceptional to keep me in my seat for as long as it did.

Sadly, I missed the end, but I saw enough to be able to recommend this production wholeheartedly. From the first view of the evocative set, stuffed with references to Holmes’s life and adventures, to Jonathan’s masterful characterisation of the great detective and his supporting cast, I was beguiled.

This is an elegant and intelligent tour de force. Technical Director Gary Archer’s atmospheric lighting and excellent sound effects, plus a range of well-chosen Victorian costume allowing the depiction of a cavalcade of characters from Moriarty to Mycroft, all combine to bring to life a veritable host of adventures.

At the heart is a stunning portrayal of Sherlock Holmes – fastidious, dry, witty, tortured, complex. Wicked flashes of homage to other productions are there for the observant, and for the quick-witted there are excruciating puns and one-liners peppering the play like buckshot. My knowledge of the stories is not encyclopaedic, so sometimes I wished to retrieve a throwaway line, and I would prefer a slightly under-egged Mr Coombes, you see. These are minor cavils. For an actor to hold an audience in the palm of his hand for a full length evening’s entertainment is a major achievement.

Jonathan Goodwin is the Artistic Director of Don’t Go Into the Cellar!, a splendidly named troupe of, as it says in the programme, the British Empire’s finest practitioners of theatrical Victoriana in a macabre vein. Accept their cordial invitation ‘to cast aside the fetters of modern life, and take a step back in time to the gas-lamp days of Gothic terror and Victorian thrills!’ You won’t regret it.

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