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Sydney review - Sherlock Holmes & The Death on Thor Bridge: a theatrical pleasure


Dr John Watson (Nick Fitzsimmons) and Sherlock Holmes (Patrick Magee)

Sherlock Holmes & The Death on Thor Bridge

By Arthur Conan Doyle

Adapted by Sandra Bass

Directed by Carlin Hurdis

A Genesian Theatre Production

The Genesian Theatre

415-431 Kent Street

Sydney

Season: 29 February – 4 April 2020. Bookings: www.genesiantheatre.com.au

Duration: 2 hours approx. including interval

All is not what it may appear. Or, as Sherlock Holmes likes to say: "Beware the trap of blinkered vision".

In Sherlock Holmes & The Death on Thor Bridge, master investigator Sherlock Holmes (Patrick Magee) has a new murder to solve and, with his outstanding powers of perception, he once again leaves lesser mortals standing both bewildered and astonished.

In this story by Arthur Conan Doyle and adapted by Sandra Bass, Sherlock and his able assistant Dr John Watson (Nick Fitzsimmons) are called upon by the pompous millionaire Roger Gibson (Dean Tuttle) to swiftly solve the apparent murder of his Brazilian wife Senhora Sofia (Krassy Alexandrova). Her body has been found on the Thor Bridge with a gunshot wound and an intriguing note in her hand.

Gibson treats Holmes with disdain, ignoring his professionalism by offering Holmes three times his usual fee to solve the case. Sherlock responds with his own arrogance, declining to take on the case until Gibson is open and honest about his relationship with his wife and love interest with governess Grace Dunbar (Joanne Coleman). Gibson has now witnessed Sherlock’s astuteness first-hand and has unwittingly placed himself as a suspect.

Also under suspicion is Grace Dunbar. Soon the crime is officially under investigation by Detective Philips (Myles Waddell) of the Metropolitan Police. Not to be outwitted by Sherlock Holmes, Philip’s employs the basic matrix for suspect analysis learnt at Investigations 101: ‘Opportunity, Motive and Means’. Philips asks himself, “Or is it Motive, Means and Opportunity?”. Sherlock politely looks on smilingly, like a father watches a child wobble on its first bike ride.

As the story rapidly evolves, there are some terrific exchanges between the characters. Dr Watson understands Holmes only too well, knowing when to compliment and when to tactfully make suggestions or question. Humour is sprinkled sensibly throughout the dialogue, so the plot maintains interest and is not too dramatically deep.

As Holmes shows off his method to Watson (“Consider the absence of evidence”) he also makes general observations about society (“Men denigrate women because secretly they fear them”).

The play also highlights the social hierarchy of late nineteenth century Britain, when everyone seemed to know their place. For example, young maid Maisie Jones (Kate Smytheman) makes the comment “A good servant knows what she’s not meant to know”. The other characters of Anne Moffat (Shane Bates) and Mrs Turner (Victoria Helen) complete the cast.

An interesting aside is how Watson challenges Holmes not to use the stimulant cocaine whilst working on this case. It appears that even this Victorian hero has his vices.

Under the accomplished direction of Carlin Hurdis, this production is a theatrical pleasure. Casting was excellent, the lead roles shining, and the minor players gave outstanding support. Flashback scenes were particularly creative and effective. Credit to Tom Bannerman, whose ingenious Thor Bridge demonstrated great versatility in set design. Compliments to lighting and sound (Michael Schell) and costumes (Susan Carveth).

This production of Sherlock Holmes and the Death on Thor Bridge has the advantage of being staged in the charming Genesian Theatre, the perfect venue for a play with a Victorian setting. The only things missing to enjoy at interval were Pig’s Trotters and Jellied Eel. Maybe next time!

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