Crime fiction has long been a source of dark entertainment; imaging the worst case scenario, exploring the evil that lurks in plain sight, using a smattering of clues to hunt down a killer. Sherlock Holmes, the iconic detective, and his faithful assistant Dr Watson return to the Genesian stage in this new adaptation of the Death on Thor Bridge.
At first the crime seems straight-forward enough: a woman found murdered while her husband is engaged in an affair with the governess. Senhora Sofia (Krassy Alexandrova) was either hated or feared by all those who knew her. She was losing control of her children and her husband Roger Gibson (Dean Tuttle), whose eyes had wandered to the governess Miss Dunbar (Joanne Coleman). Was it jealousy or a conspiracy to run away together that left Senhora Sofia on Thor Bridge that night? All the clues point to Miss Dunbar but perhaps the certainty of the evidence is itself suspicious.
Patrick Magee makes another appearance as Sherlock Holmes after playing the detective in an improvised mystery at the Sydney Comedy Festival last year. This time his performance maintains the customary pomp and sarcasm of the character with an added sharpness that cuts through the Victorian social etiquette. Magee and Nick Fitzsimmons as Dr Watson have a quick camaraderie that keeps every twist and reveal of a delicate detail delightfully engaging.
Carlin Hurdis’s direction of Sandra Bass’s script is commendably well-paced with every moment accounted for, even in quick transition to flashbacks and memories. Moments of humour are varied between quips from the script excellently delivered and more subtle slapstick keeping background characters employed in each scene. Tom Bannerman’s set design cleverly inserts a stone bridge into both 221B Baker St and the Gibsons’ country manor with curtains that serve both a practical purpose and an artistic one with lighting design from Michael Schell incorporating the use of silhouettes for added drama.
The cast worked smoothly together with each adding to the balance of darkness and light in the play’s mystery and humour. Of particular note was Myles Waddell as the well-meaning but oblivious Detective Philips. Waddell played the character with a charming and realistic lack of awareness for his own investigation which bounced exceedingly well off of Holmes’s precision and focus. The housekeeper Mrs Moffat (Shane Bates) and Maisie (Kate Smytheman) added surprising intrigue to Senhora Sofia’s murder with their own underhanded operations.
With so many Sherlock Holmes mysteries to choose from, not all of them speak specifically to a conundrum of life. Some, like the Death on Thor Bridge are about the entertainment of ordinary characters put in perfectly unordinary circumstances. In this production, the quality acting, clever humour, and smooth design elements add up to a jolly good time.
Sherlock Holmes & the Death on Thor Bridge is running at the Genesian Theatre from February 28th – April 4th