Sherlock Holmes

Mon 1st – Wed 3rd December 2014

reviews

Sofya Grebenkina

at 09:57 on 2nd Dec 2014

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1disagrees

‘Sherlock Holmes’ draws its origin from Conan Doyle’s infamous tales of ‘A Study in Scarlet’, ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’, and ‘The Final Problem’. Together they form an exhilarating piece of drama, sending Sherlock on a case-ending career after a fatal encounter with his arch enemy, Moriarty. It would have been a pleasure to see Sherlock and his adventures successfully transposed onto the stage. But unfortunately, this university production regrettably missed the opportunity to do so.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the production was not the bland acting but rather the stage setting itself. The off-white wallpaper which occasionally fluttered with the frequent opening and shutting of the doors, frequently detracted from the action of the play.While Sherlock remarked in the first act on the cleanliness of the Larabee apartments, one only had to look at the walls to prove the famous detective wrong. The furniture was almost too sparse, yet when it was the collection – an assortment of bulky wooden articles – was utilised, it only seemed to hinder the play, distracting us from the action on-stage.

Special mention, however, must go to costume designer Alisha Hallwood, who turned the production into a visual feast. The subtle touches of scarlet in some characters’ appearances, from the Forman’s hair to Madge Larabee’s skirt, proved to be a delight to spot, and at the same time corresponded perfectly with the personality of each character. The costumes adhered perfectly to the supposed time period, from the garish waistcoats, the fur-trimmed blazers of the villains, to the frilled blouses and the ankle-length skirts of the ladies.

The entirety of the cast, disregarding the two main actors, exhibited a tragic ineptitude for the projection of their voices and the enunciation of their words, leaving most of the audience in a state of constant confusion as to the plot of the play. However, in spite of this fatal flaw, all of the acts before the interlude were a dull succession of events, lacking any spark of genuine emotion or vigour in representation. Madge Larabee, played by Anna Chambers, and James Larabee, played by Nick Yeates, presented as a powerful couple in the script, appeared without chemistry on stage, as mere caricatures of their intended parts. Most bizarre was Shannon Burke’s characterization of Alice Faulkner, decisive in her words but always a trembling mess on stage, she presented an unlikely paradox.

However the depictions Sherlock and Moriarty must be praised, adding a certain dynamism to this otherwise lifeless production. Sherlock, played by Andy White, stood out in his consistent portrayal of the eponymous detective’s famous idiosyncrasies, managing to steal the audience’s attention every time he was on stage. The star of the show, however, must be Jessie Smith’s Moriarty. She appeared a commanding presence on stage, presenting a convincing villain in her unflinching detestation of Holmes. The play would have been an achievement, had the standard of the rest of the cast matched that of the acting of Smith.

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Comments

Sherlock Holmes; 2nd Dec 2014; 15:32:17

I believe this to be a wholly unfair misrepresentation of Collingwood's depiction of Sherlock Holmes. I wish to echo your applause for both Jessie Smith as Moriarty and the praise of the costume, but it is your other views that I find bizarre.

I do share your point that some of the cast lacked volume at times, however it is incredibly unfair to say that this was a problem with all cast minus Sherlock and Moriarty. There were, perhaps, three characters who could have improved their projection (Larrabee, Craigin, Terese).

The lack of volume also did not, as you imply, detract from the plot; it was outline succinctly and coherently through the acting which was to a high standard. To call the acting ‘bland’ and ‘lifeless’ is an insult to the evidently huge amount of work put into this production. All characters engaged with the essence of their character and delivered lines with assurance – I do not recall one case of forgotten or stumbled lines.

You have perhaps misjudged the character of Alice; the paradox of her determined voice to the timidity of her stage presence allowed the audience to emphasise more with her position – a frail young woman who is determined to assist those she cares for. Particularly noteworthy are the characters of Billy and Prince who provided a down-to-earth nature in a very emotive and, occasionally, dark play.

The setting was excellently and effectively done. The amount of set pieces used was ideal for the stage and gave us an insight into a new location each time. This was complemented perfectly with the lighting – the fireplace lighting in Sherlock’s room particularly stands out, giving the scene that homely warmth that was echoed in the relationship between Holmes and Watson, who was portrayed well. The set pieces also drew the audience’s attention away from the scenes where the flats – a dirtied off-white – did not fit.

Andy White as Holmes was, in a word, phenomenal. His facial expressions elegantly depicted his thought process and actions and his presence of the stage was engrossing, his every movement and word captivating. He married the ingenious of the character with a reflective and emotive edge, that put across a unique but excellent interpretation of Holmes.

Overall, this was a strong production that was, only occasionally, let down by a lack of volume and diction before the interval. This perhaps can be put down to first night nerves, which we as an audience must appreciate. I would urge anyone to come along and see this thoroughly interesting performance!

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