The premise of Hidden Meanings is fundamentally preposterous: a middle-aged Sherlock Holmes obsessive (Jasper Mitchell) murders his accountant, dresses him as Moriarty and hides him in a cupboard. Unfortunately for him, his fantasy unravels as it emerges that he was not the only one with the motivation to kill the hapless Mr Meaning.
Mitchell gives a confident and entertaining performance as Rodney, capering round the stage in greatcoat and deerstalker. He is ably supported by Billy Watkinson as the laconic George, his Watson substitute, who provides the foil to all the chaos that ensues.
This is an old-school farce of the silliest kind and the cast are clearly all having a whale of a time, particularly those – Felix Kenyon-Smith, Harvey Shaw, Sam Western, Felix Robson and Tom Plaut, who get to don mini-skirts, lipstick and fishnets. The sight of the 1st XV captain in full drag is not one that can be easily forgotten.
The trio of incompetent policemen, led by Aarav Bhatia, also provide some comic highlights, with their perfectly synchronised slapstick and love of light opera.
There are some clever moments of direction from Sam Browne-Swinburne; I particularly enjoyed the use of projection in the opening scene, which echoes Holmes’ filmic heritage – as well as showcasing some beautiful Shropshire countryside!
This year is the first that the Headmaster will be awarding the Charles Rankin Cup. This award, kindly endowed by Nick Rankin (OS) in memory of his brother, will be presented to the best House Play of the year. The element of competition is clearly inspiring the housemasters to great heights: we look forward to seeing what Churchill’s will bring!