Venue: The Genesian Theatre (Sydney NSW), Jul 5 – Aug 9, 2014
Playwright: Steven Dietz (based on the original by William Gillette and Arthur Conan Doyle)
Director: Michael Heming
Cast: John Willis-Richards, John Grinston, Emma Medbury, Mark Nagle, Marty O’Neill, Tom Atkins, Rebecca Piplica, Marley Erueti
Steven Dietz’s 2006 adaptation has elements of intrigue, suspense, comedy, and like many retellings of iconic literary figures, ample amounts of self-references. It obviously holds greater appeal for fans of Sherlock Holmes, but it is by no means a prerequisite for its enjoyment. The plot is classically structured, with characters that are distinctly conceived, and vibrant dialogue designed to entertain and amuse.
John Willis-Richards plays Holmes with delightful campness. He brings an effervescence that keeps the show lively, but needs to take time with wordier speeches so that nuances are uncovered more clearly. Mark Nagle’s very animated King of Bohemia is completely farcical. He delivers many laughs with his confident physicality and ridiculous German accent. Marley Erueti plays several supporting roles, but has an excellent stage presence that consistently draws our attention. He performs his parts with excellent conviction and wins us over with his charisma.
The production features a great deal of hammy acting, which can be a problem when it gets in the way of the narrative. There are moments when posturing and vocal embellishment obfuscate the story, leading to some degree of confusion. Design elements help immensely, especially Martin Searles’ work for costumes. His pieces contribute efficiently to the portrayals of personalities, time and space, and his attention to detail gives the production a very polished look. Searles’ talent with colour, shape and texture is a star of the show.
This might be touted as Holmes’ “final adventure”, but his popularity will no doubt see him reincarnated, revived and re-adapted for all manner of media. The mystery and wit that characterises his stories can be found in some of this production, and enthusiasts in particular would find it a charming effort.