Luke Barton

Luke Barton, credit of Alex Winn

📷 : Alex Winn

Luke Barton’s acting career has led to many stage roles and he can currently be seen touring as Sherlock Holmes in Blackeyed Theatre’s production of Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of Four. With the UK run being extended and the tour heading internationally next year, Luke is due to solve the case as Sherlock along with his friend Dr. Watson for a while longer yet. Answering our questions, Luke tells us about playing the famous detective, touring with the production and performing on stage.

What made you decide on an acting career?

I became interested in acting when I was at school. I started to do the school plays – my first role was an Ugly Sister in the panto – and from there I decided to take A-Level Drama and started to consider it as a career option. I went to university first to have a back up plan in place in case it didn’t work out. But even while at uni I spent a lot of my time performing in the university drama society productions and immersing myself in all things theatrical.


Have you always preferred stage over screen?

I think stage is much more dangerous than screen and that’s why I love it. I enjoy watching film and TV because I think the storytelling is incredible and certainly in recent years there have been a swathe of fantastic TV series made that I have become slightly obsessed with. But theatre is much more rewarding to perform I think. Theatre relies on the collective imagination of audience and performer and that’s a wonderful thing. I love performing each night and seeing how the relationship between the audience and the piece of stage changes and develops. But also, things go wrong in theatre but it’s live, there’s no ‘cut – do it again’, it’s all got to keep going. That’s what I think audiences and performers find most thrilling about theatre. It’s happening in real tine, it’s dangerous, it’s organic.

Blackeyed Theatre presents Sherlock Holmes - The Sign of Four (courtesy Mark Holliday) (3)

📷 : Mark Holliday

How did your professional lead stage debut go?

I’ve never really felt like I’ve been the lead in a play, despite playing a number of characters that are seen as ‘lead role.’ I like the feeling of being in an ensemble and even when I’ve performed in one man plays before, I really feel like the ‘lead’ is only one part of all the creative work going on to make the final product. Sherlock is exactly like this. This is a brilliant ensemble piece, with all the actors remaining present on the stage even when they are not in character. I think we are all leads in this play!


What do you think you’ll enjoy most about playing Sherlock Holmes on the new tour of The Sign of Four?

I think I’m going to enjoy the opportunity to leave my mark on this extraordinary character and making him my own for a year of my life. I like seeing how playing character affects the actor. I’m curious to see how Holmes affects me throughout the playing of him. Will I get more intelligent? One can but hope…

Blackeyed Theatre presents Sherlock Holmes - The Sign of Four (courtesy Mark Holliday) (4)Blackeyed Theatre presents Sherlock Holmes - The Sign of Four (courtesy Mark Holliday) (17)

📷 : Mark Holliday

Were you a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work before joining the cast?

Yes absolutely. I downloaded all of the Holmes stories onto my Kindle and read them all during my commutes on the tube. They’re brilliant stories and extremely riveting. I missed plenty of stops because of being consumed by the book I’d been reading. I think our show does justice to ‘The Sign of Four’ which is absolutely one of the best books.


What can people expect from the show?

I think people can expect the book to jump to life in this show. The show keeps all the best bits of the story – the lost treasure, the mysterious wooden-legged man, the blossoming friendship of Holmes and Watson, the boat chase down the Thames – and sprinkles some punchy new elements like live music, witty dialogue and multi-rolling. One for hardcore Sherlock fans and novices alike!

Blackeyed Theatre presents Sherlock Holmes - The Sign of Four (courtesy Mark Holliday) (6)

📷 : Mark Holliday

How have you prepared for playing the role?

I started by re-reading The Sign of Four and picking out all of the relevant information about Holmes in this story. I wanted to make my Holmes the one that exists in this book specifically and to almost forget what we know of him from the subsequent stories. I did also get a list of all the descriptions that are given of Holmes in the stories and see what recurring motifs and descriptions came about. Then I built the character around these descriptions, along with my knowledge of Victorian Britain and what influence that had on Conan Doyle.


How will you make Sherlock Holmes your own character?

My Holmes is going to be grounded in the description of him in this story. I wanted to forget all the recent portrayals of him, like Cumberbatch or Downey Jr, and just give a snapshot of Holmes as he is portrayed by Conan Doyle at this stage of the stories. I also wanted to make him recognisable to a degree. I wanted people to see that Holmes has characteristics we all share: egotism, eccentricities, impatience, creativity, obsessions.

Blackeyed Theatre presents Sherlock Holmes - The Sign of Four (courtesy Mark Holliday) (7)

📷 : Mark Holliday

Do you think the production will appeal to all audiences?

Absolutely! This is a show that keeps the book at the forefront of the adaptation and the books are brilliant. Plus the way we tell the story is action packed and fast paced. Everyone will find something in it – faithfulness to the original stories, romance, mystery, a whodunnit, comedy, action. It’s all there.


The tour is going to Isle of Wight, have you performed there previously?

I haven’t ever performed at the Isle of Wight sadly but I’m reliably informed that the theatre is lovely and the people are brilliant. So I’m looking forward to it!

Blackeyed Theatre presents Sherlock Holmes - The Sign of Four (courtesy Mark Holliday) (9)Blackeyed Theatre presents Sherlock Holmes - The Sign of Four (courtesy Mark Holliday) (22)

📷 : Mark Holliday

What’s most rewarding about touring with a theatre production?

I think it’s the way that you get to see the length and breadth of the country and see how people in different places respond to the show. For me, touring is an important part of theatre. Too much theatre is centred in London so it’s good to take plays around and share them with people. Historically, travelling players have been an important tradition in the theatre so I like continuing that!


Is this the longest tour you’ve been a part of?

It is indeed. By the time we finish in China it will have been nigh on a year long. Which is brilliant! I can’t wait to see what the show is like by the end.

Blackeyed Theatre presents Sherlock Holmes - The Sign of Four (courtesy Mark Holliday) (11)

📷 : Mark Holliday

Have you worked with Blackeyed Theatre previously?

I haven’t sadly. Sherlock is my first role for them. But they’re a brilliant company and I hope to work with them again in the future.


How have rehearsals gone?

Rehearsals have been brilliant. We all got on so well very quickly and built our team rapport. We played around and experimented with stuff and Nick was great at encouraging everyone to chip in with their ideas and thoughts. Rehearsals can be long and hard but not with this show. We had a great time putting this show together!


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Book tickets to see Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of Four

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