A collection of historic reviews and articles on Sherlockian theatrical performances from contemporary newspapers.

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The Holmeses of Baker Street (Basil Mitchell)
January 23 - ?: Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, Scotland
February 15 - ?: Lyric Theatre, London, England

(Information above on performance dates is derived from newspaper archives and is therefore likely to be incomplete.)


Edinburgh had the privilege last night of giving at the Lyceum Theatre a first performance of a play in which Sherlock Holmes is brought back to life and to his familiar activities. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is no longer with us in the flesh to manipulate his famous creations, but he would surely not have been disappointed with their handling by Mr Basil Mitchell, the author of this remarkably stimulating play.

“The Holmeses of Baker Street” was presented by Mr B.A. Meyer and Mr Leon M. Lion with a company which included Sir Nigel Playfair, Miss Eva Moore, Mr Felix Aylmer, and Miss Rosemary Ames. These were excellent credentials. The play had an immediate success, and Edinburgh’s verdict should be, with its own undoubted merits, a passport to a similar experience in its further travels which, in due course, will take “The Holmeses of Baker Street” to the “West End.”


The hackneyed phrase that “there is not a dull moment” is demonstrably true of this finely constructed play of two acts, of three scenes each; a third of one scene and a touchingly domestic epilogue. That there is a love interest carried to the happiest fruition is the explanation and excuse for the epilogue.

But before that stage is reached many thrills in the authentic Sherlock Holmes tradition are experienced. The action is laid in the Holmeses’ rooms in Baker Street and in their country house. For this is a play of long years after the famous detective’s retirement from the profession of the sleuth. His wife is dead, and the companion of his unwilling return to the unmasking of criminals is a daughter in the bloom of young womanhood.

To his dismay, Shirley has inherited in no mean measure his own deductive faculties, and nothing will satisfy her as a career but that of a criminal investigator. The father has other ideas as to the proper function of womanhood, and throughout the play he propounds a philosophy of life based upon the domestic economy of bees, whose culture is the main interest of his life as a retired country gentleman.

A chance visit to London embroils him in the activities of a criminal confederacy, the “White Cross Gang.” Shirley’s detective instincts, at the same time, lead her, in conjunction with Mrs Watson – the wife, of course, of “My dear Watson” – into an enterprise which in essence is as innocent as the purpose of all the members of the “White Cross Gang,” except one.

They are, in fact, just “The Bright Young Things” who set out for fun on mad enterprises, and learn only when Sherlock Holmes with a great deal of valuable assistance from his daughter, takes a hand in affairs that they have become the tool of an arch criminal who, in due times, will extract his terms.


The story is evolved around the purpose of the gang to steal a pearl of great price from Sir Joseph Masterman, their intentions in this, as in every other case, being made known as to time and place. That is one of their peculiarities.

Considerations both of space and desirability forbid one, in a play of baffling mystery and incessant surprise, to tell in detail how the attempts of the gang were foiled: what relation the innocent burglary staged by Mrs Watson and Shirley had to that denouement; in what extent the pastime of bee-keeping played its part.

On the other hand, considerations of truth and justice compel the statement that the play is full of laughter and comedy intellectually satisfying, of incisiveness of language as keen as the Sherlock Holmes brain, and of surprises as startling as ever baffled the amateur sleuths who from scene to scene try to prophesy the next development.

The professional police suffer rude and severe castigation at the hands of Sherlock Holmes, who, in his retirement, has not improved in temper or acquired the patience that suffers fools gladly. There is a “creepy” scene in which two ruffians break in at dead of night and pinion Holmes and Shirley with dread threats of imminent death. That is not a scene from which the C.I.D. emerges with credit.

As a modern father, Holmes reveals himself the intolerable martinet; but that aspect of his character is over-emphasised because of his horror at the idea that his daughter should abandon herself to hereditary instincts as the offspring of a super-detective. His real attitude towards his daughter is shown in the masterly stroke, with which again he scores off the police, that advances her real happiness – a reference to the epilogue is here indicated.


The performance went with such smoothness as hardly ever to suggest that it was “a world premiere.” The reception given to the play was strikingly enthusiastic, and there were calls for the author, for Mr Lion, and for Sir Nigel Playfair, each of whom gave expression to a few words of thanks, and acknowledged the fine work done by the cast of ten persons.

The dominating character was, of course, that of Sherlock Holmes, but Shirley Holmes shared in adequate measure. Mr Felix Aylmer seemed to have stepped out of the pages of Conan Doyle. He could not have been in appearance more convincing, and his succinct economy of words in turning the obscure into the obvious was masterly and biting. Miss Rosemary Ames acted in worthy keeping, but never surrendered the feminine touch which gave reality to the character.

Sir Nigel was the dear, dull, comfortable, indispensable Watson come to life again, “well in case,” after 20 years of easy domesticity. Miss Eva Moore was greeted with affectionate popularity in her essentially feminine role, which she played with a generous admixture of comedy. The other parts were undertaken with ready competence, the more important being Detective-Inspector Withers, by Vincent Holman; Mr Canning, the amateur “crook” but sincere lover, by Mr John Loder; and William, the Holmeses’ man-servant, by Mr Alfred Clark. Mr Matthew Forsyth, who has already made himself favourably known in Edinburgh; Mr Ewell B. Gessing (are you?); and Mr Henry Hallatt had minor parts, of which they made the most.

Edinburgh Evening News, Tuesday 24 January 1933
found at www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk



Sherlock Holmes at Home

(“Era” Correspondent)

Basil Mitchell in “The Holmeses of Baker Street,” produced at the Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, last night, has, in this his initial effort as a dramatic author, achieved an undoubted success. The plot introduces not only the great criminal investigator, but his daughter Shirley, upon whom the parental mantle of keen deduction has fallen.

Sherlock Holmes has retired for years from the pursuit of his probing into the cause of crime, but the burglary of a valuable pearl lures him once again into his former activities, and through three acts the audience is alternately amused and thrilled by the various humorous or exciting situations, until all ends with happiness for the principal characters.

The comedy is neatly constructed, and inspires the hope that in Mr Basil Mitchell the dramatic world has found an author who should add to his laurels in future works.

An admirable cast rendered the piece with fine art. Felix Aylmer, as Holmes, gave an effective performance, in which every look and gesture was splendidly studied. Sir Nigel Playfair was in the skin of the part as Dr Watson, Rosemary Ames gave appropriate action and charm to the character of Shirley, and the Mrs Watson of Eva Moore was a finished example of comedy acting. John Loder and the other members of the cast were all excellent.

The Curtain fell amidst loud applause, and Mr Mitchell, Leon Lion, who produced the play, and Sir Nigel Playfair acknowledged the enthusiastic reception.

The Era, Wednesday 25 January 1933

found at www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk