Review by Cynthia Ning
The Genesian Theatre has now moved to London from Corfu, and we are going back in time to 1894 to solve mysteries with the ever-sharp Sherlock Holmes and his faithful best friend, assistant, and flatmate – Dr John H. Watson.
This is an original play by American writer and actor Katie Forgette, which premiered in Malvern (PA, USA) on the 18th of June in 2008. She brings a vibrant and humorous flare to the characters and allows for the imagination to run wild with the fantastical introduction of Oscar Wilde.
We enter their world with a dark setting and a single flame emanating from the lamp on Lily’s vanity. The scene strikes us with the mystery man entering and fleeing the scene as quickly as he entered. The curtains draw back revealing Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson’s home. The set designer (Tom Fahy) has made optimal use of the small stage space by strategically placing the brightly painted walls in a diagonal pattern. This mimics a layering effect that makes the stage look much bigger than its actual dimensions making for a magical optical illusion.
Sherlock’s home is well equipped with various weapons from around the world including spears and swords hanging as décor in his living room. The furniture is placed with clear visibility to the audience, accurate to the time period and they do not interfere with the movements of the actors. The light colour palate of the walls makes the room feel vibrant and spacious. They cleverly conceal stage exits and entrances and even act as a disguised hiding nook just as you would see in many spy movies.
Sherlock (Neilson Brown) exudes charm in his demeanour and is as witty and practical as ever, detailing his findings and theories confidently and easily. Dr Watson (Carlin Hurdis) contrasts this superbly with warmth and good humour, spilling out his admiration for Lillie when she reveals herself to them with her case. Oscar (Nathan Moss) is larger than life and is every bit the high-maintenance friend with a big appetite for food, gossip, and praise for his play. Always ready with a sassy comment, a trusty notebook and a pen to take notes for his next production.
Lillie Langtry (Molly Haddon) stuns the audience with her courage and beauty for she is not your average damsel in distress. Lillie understands the importance of her case and holds her emotions close to her chest, only to reveal them at the very end once Sherlock has gained her trust. Molly is lovely at portraying Lillie on stage with her feistiness, and natural ability to play on people's emotions when the time calls for it and shows great tenderness toward the end of the second act.
The stage manager (Sue Duchâteau) and assistants meticulously arranged the movements of the set props using minimal disruption in each transition to make the scene changes as smoothly as possible. Lighting and sound design (Mehran Mortezaei) matched the pace of the scene changes perfectly, guided by the seasoned and beloved operation team behind the box.
The Costumes (designed by Susan Carveth) are accurate of the era, richly coloured and beautifully detailed that elevated the performance. One of the most stunning garments is donned by Abdul Karim (Gunjeet Singh Chattha). He provides a kind but firm stance as The Crown’s faithful messenger and glistens in the spotlight as a supporting cast member with unwavering loyalty to his duty. The dialogue moves at a tight pace following the skilful direction from John Grinston & Barry Nielson that highlights the nature of the mystery and relationship between all those involved.
Professor Moriarty (Igor Bulanov) commands the stage with his ominous presence as he goes through his calculated plan with precision and reminds everyone who is running the show. Igor gives the audience an iconic evil laugh, that it is Moriarty who holds the power and has the upper hand. The is a diverse range of English accents, with Lillie’s Maid (Meg Girdler) Mrs Tory displaying her fantastic ability to switch from a strong cockney East-End of London to the Queens English when she reveals her true self. She is delightful to watch and evolves dramatically in the second act.
John Smyth (Liam O’Carroll) is easily thwarted by Sherlock and bamboozled by the instructions given to him by his boss. Although he is rough around the edges and aloof, he is a sensitive henchman that has had a tough upbringing and strives to make a name for himself by doing what he knows best. Liam brings out the best of John Smyth and shines in each scene he makes an appearance.
There are many wonderful and cheeky references to famous works from Shakespeare to Oscar Wilde himself. These are woven into the story effectively and stretch into a very well-kept part of Sherlock's life – A fantasy of beautiful love and romance.
In the dramatic climax, we are treated to an engaging battle between Sherlock and Professor Moriarty using some of the weapons he has in his arsenal. Ending all too soon, there seems to be more questions and mysteries left for Sherlock and Dr. Watson to solve. There is a great partnership between all the actors and a genuine emotional stake for each character when their true nature is revealed.
This stage play is an absolute pleasure to see, with plenty of laughs and suitable for a young adult audience.
If you love mysteries and Sherlock Holmes, you won’t want to miss solving this play.
Sherlock Holmes and The Case of the Jersey Lily is now showing at The Genesian Theatre, Sydney from the 4th of November – 10th December 2022.
Image Credit: Craig O'Regan