Monday, 18 November 2013
Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol - Sunday 17 November
Jon Brown, Hawthorne Theatre Reviewer
Being a big fan of both Sherlock Holmes and Charles Dickens, I was looking forward to seeing a festive mixture of both on stage for the first time. It was a clever and exciting proposition by writer John Longenbaugh.
Performed by Baroque Theatre Company, we see through the eyes of Dr. Watson; Holmes’ trusty companion, the famous detective sleuth’s infusion with the spirit of Ebenezer Scrooge on the eve of Christmas. After failed attempts by Dr. Watson to cheer up Holmes into celebrating the holiday season, the unrepentant, ill-tempered detective is forced to analyse the facts and solve the most important mystery of his life – past, present and future.
The story focused heavily on atmosphere, spirits and sudden changes in time, tempo and mood. The set was simple; two working doors upstage were used to good effect to bring characters in and out of rooms. Two straightforward room settings were at either side of the main space, leaving a large area to play out the majority of the action. Ideally I would like to have seen a more substantial set as I did feel it was a little bare in places. I just wanted to be drawn into the story more, and I felt the set required a little more attention to detail.
In the lead role, Simon Michael Morgan bought an energy and assurance to his performance. He cracked out his dialogue with the required delivery, pace and confidence. As Dr. Watson, Paul Andrew Goldsmith was a suited side-kick to Holmes, looking every bit like the loyal friend and both he and Simon were the real drivers behind the wheel of this challenging piece of the theatre.
The commitment and team ethic displayed by the ensemble cast was impressive throughout. Everyone contributed something different in bringing this story to life. Unfortunately the execution of dialogue by Russell J. Turner and Terrance Vincent was at times muffled and unheard and a few lines were lost too, thus dropping the pace, focus and energy. Jill Davy as Mrs Hudson was funny throughout and she worked hard at keeping the action flowing. Helen Fullerton, Libby Waite and Claire Bibby threw themselves into a variety of roles, with a strong confidence.
Sadly, I felt the cast were let down a little by other factors. The coordination of the lighting cues, sound cues and music was weak at times, and this style of theatre needs sharp timing, and a total unison with all its technical cues. The sound levels required more attention too. I am all in favour of underscored music as this can really add to the atmosphere and mood. However some pieces of music were simply too loud and played for too long, and this bought a distraction to the action and again some of the dialogue was not heard.
Adam Morley’s direction was bold and expansive, but I was thrown by some of it, which resulted in some confusion. I actually wondered if certain moves were absolutely necessary. I did enjoy the intention to use the whole playing space and this worked very well. There were a few moments when some of the characters were either watching another scene or conversation, or had stepped out of that scene completely but remained on stage. In these situations, I thought they could have been better positioned, thus bringing a stronger focus to the main action.
I mean it when I say that it was a hardworking and courageous attempt by the director, players and crew. To bring together this classic Dickens story and Doyle’s famous sleuth to the stage is no easy feat, but a hugely ambitious one. With a few adjustments and changes, it would indeed be an even better and stronger spectacle.
Happy Christmas to you all!