Review By Michelle Sutton
A night at The Genesian Theatre is like stepping back in time.
As this was my first visit to the historic inner city theatre, I was absolutely delighted at the novelty of the gothic church with stained glass windows and a quaint charm to everything. The foyer was too narrow to hold all the guests, so people spilled out onto the footpath of Kent St with their complimentary glass of bubbly. The box office is a tiny space under the staircase, and the curtains are velvet. There is a certain magic in the space due to more than half a century of community theatre in the church.
I was excited to see the world premiere of Sherlock Holmes and the Death on Thor Bridge, based on the Arthur Conan Doyle short story first published in a magazine in 1922. It has been adapted by Sandra Bass, who is a regular performer at The Genesian Theatre. I was not sure if the tone of the piece would be more comedic or dramatic, but was enticed by the hope of an intriguing murder mystery.
The actors nailed their different English dialects, and the costume designer Susan Carveth provided excellent period appropriate garments including dresses for the housemaids and Mr Holmes’ famous overcoat and hat. Thor Bridge itself was an outstanding set piece, by Tom Bannerman, working beautifully in the small stage space as the scene of the crime. Myles Waddell provides endearing comic relief as Detective Philips, particularly when he makes his entrance in Act I.
However, the plot itself is not suspenseful and the mystery is all too simply figured out. The direction lacks creativity leaving the show a little dull. Like the short story it is based on, the play is set in 1920s England and keeps to the language and conventions of the era. Nothing has been tweaked or added to bring it into the 21st Century. There are no universal themes, moving character arcs, or growing relationships to connect with and root for. Perhaps the short story could’ve benefited from more fleshing out, to create a more engaging and impactful experience for the audience.
There is also the problem of stereotypes. The female characters come straight out of 1922. ‘Senhora Sofia’ is a passionate Brazilian woman, obsessed with sex and violence. From the get go she is painted as an exotic threat. It is disappointing that this racist and misogynistic stereotype is presented as is, rather than with any sort of critique or discussion around it. This could have been an interesting element to the play, had the audiences' assumptions of Sofia been challenged, perhaps through the investigation of Sherlock Holmes, however racial prejudices are merely validated in the unfolding of the story.
From my one experience at the Genesian Theatre, I have deduced that it is not the place to see a piece of theatre revived and reinvigorated, but more like stepping into a museum where time has stood still. There is appeal in this, but it is purely nostalgic. It does not draw you in to be a part of the story, keeping you at a distance as a passive spectator.
In conclusion, Sherlock Holmes and the Death on Thor Bridge is a pleasant enough night out at the theatre if one can lower their expectations, but there is no spark in the play to make it memorable.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.