Bobby Bradley on The Valley of Fear

Photo: Ruth Crafer

Adapted by Nick Lane from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fourth and final Sherlock Holmes novel, The Valley of Fear sees the iconic detective receiving a mysterious coded message warning of imminent danger before being drawn into a tale of intrigue and murder stretching from 221B Baker Street to an ancient, moated manor house to the bleak Pennsylvanian Vermissa Valley. The production, currently running in Dundee, visits Derby, Bath and London, where it receives a three-week run at Southwark Playhouse.

It stars Bobby Bradley as Sherlock Holmes and Joseph Derrington as Dr John Watson alongside Blake Kubena, Gavin Molloy and Alice Osmanski, under the direction of Lane. We caught up with Bradley to find out what it’s like to be playing a character as famed as Sherlock Holmes.

Q&A with Bobby Bradley

What’s it like to be playing such an iconic character as Sherlock Holmes?

It is so exciting, definitely something I’ve wanted to do for a while. The ultimate detective and one of literature’s most established characters, I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t know who Sherlock Holmes is. So getting a chance to explore this world through that lens is an opportunity I am raring to get stuck into. That said, it’s so easy to turn it into a caricature or a know it all, so finding the human being at the centre is absolutely vital if we want audiences to connect to our Sherlock and our story. A challenge for sure, but one that I am definitely up for. Sherlock may be a few steps ahead in his deductive logic, but he has to be present in the moment of that discovery, just like the audience.

Is it at all daunting to play a character which many people have preconceived ideas of?

A little bit. I’d say for me personally I feel more a sense of responsibility with the role, he is such a timeless and beloved character, I’d hate to change that, but no question – taking this on comes with a certain pressure. There have been so many great performances of Holmes over the years, from some exceptional actors, and people will always make comparisons. I have to find my authentic take on him, and root him in our story. Also, the play is so much more than just Sherlock, the story we follow is a fascinating puzzle, filled with intrigue and danger, and is brilliantly brought to life by our company – only five actors. So with this style of ensemble storytelling, my job really is to be part of that team.

Promotional image – Bobby Bradley, centre.

What can you tell us about The Valley of Fear?

Holmes and Watson receive a note one idle morning, with a strange coded message and are quickly caught up in a real snorter of a case: a violent murder, an isolated manor house, surrounded by a moat. How did the killer escape? And what does it have to do with a secret society in a small mining town in America twenty years earlier? The Valley of Fear unravels as a tale of danger and suspense, but the great detective may not be the only one with an eye on this case. If you spend your life chased by fear, can you ever outrun it?

How have you approached the role and the production?

My starting point for a play like this is almost always the script, even more so here, and one of the best things about this production is its connection to the source material. Nick Lane has written such a wonderful and faithful adaptation; it really feels like we’re celebrating Arthur Conan Doyles’ original story and his original version of the character. It’s then through the action of the play, and the relationships we see that I start to get a sense of the character – how does he move? how does he sound? what does it feel like to be in those moments? And then through rehearsal and play as a company we find what creates the moments we want for the story and the audience, as well as what feels authentic and alive as the character.

How does it feel to be taking the show on the road?

IT FEELS AMAZING!! Taking a show out on tour means that every day, every week, you’re finding a new audience for that story. You go to towns, and cities, and local communities who really engage with a production, and create such a unique environment for the play and the performers. This year too, Blackeyed Theatre is celebrating their 20th year producing top class touring theatre, so we’re meeting people everywhere who have seen previous shows and come back time and time again, it feels like the bar is very high for us. Out on the road, your company really has to become a little family for the tour – so get ready for endless social media pictures of us having fun in Dundee, or Derby, or London, or Bath (or on the A90, or on the M6).

The Valley of Fears is at Southwark Playhouse from 27 March to 13 April, and touring.