I always love coming back to the Genesian Theatre, it has such charm and history, a beautiful, converted church in the middle of the high-rise bustle of Sydney. An almost stubborn oasis home to talented actors, daring designers and great theatre. Therefore, it’s no surprise that their latest production, Sherlock Holmes & the case of the Jersey Lilly is another thoroughly enjoyable and puzzling night at the theatre.
Written by American actor and playwright Katie Forgette, Sherlock Holmes & the case of the Jersey Lilly, takes titular Sherlock and Dr Watson on their most theatrical case yet, partnering up with celebrated hedonistic playwright Oscar Wilde to protect the secret past of devilishly debonaire actress Lillie Langtry, also known as the Jersey Lilly. Director John Grinston has done an excellent job managing to balance a cast of larger-than-life personalities while still managing to deliver a story full of heart, intrigue and a lot of humour.
Of course, I can’t review a Sherlock Holmes play without talking about the man himself. Neilson Brown plays the classic literary hero with a surprisingly human element to his performance which I absolutely loved. He was charming, he was smug, he was suave, he was not what I expected but he made this character accessible and easy to watch. It was clear in some scenes, with clever costuming, he was having entirely too much fun playing the game and that was infectious. Brown was in control of the Sherlock story he wanted to tell, and he stuck to that throughout. I must mention the impressive physical theatre elements he bought to the role were a real standout.
The Genesian Theatre was quite lucky in assembling a cast of exceedingly talented and charming actors to fill out the supporting roles. Carlin Hurdis as Dr John Watson played the classic assistant to the genius with an effortless charm, his openness assisted the audience in understanding the workings of Sherlocks mind and his infatuation with Lillie Langtry was effortlessly sweet and led to quite a few comedic moments. Nathan Moss as Oscar Wilde was a constant delight, full of hilarious one-liners and a self-indulged pompousness that was delightful to watch but still managed to portray a genuine care for his friend. Molly Haddon as Lillie Langtry was very well cast, full of substance and nuance that kept us guessing until the very end of the show. While having three large personalities such as Sherlock, Watson and Oscar Wilde on stage, Haddon was able to expertly hold her own in a role that that could almost be seen as demurer in nature.
Rounding out the rest of the cast is Meg Girdler as Mrs Tory, Liam O’Carroll as John Smyth, Igor Bulanov as Professor Moriarty and Gunjeet Singh Chattha as Abdul Karim. These fine actors did an excellent job as their respective characters, a particular noteworthy performance by Girdler who played the sweet and caring housekeeper almost too well was a real highlight of the show for me. O’Carroll got some real laughs out of the audience as the bumbling henchman, while Bulanov bought the scheming Moriarty to life with a dark undertow.
I must also make a special mention to the incredible design team, Tom Fahy - Set design, Susan Carveth – Costume design and Mehran Mortezaei. Fahy’s set was impressive and incredibly versatile, easily transforming into the 6 different locations, but not skimping on the details. Carveth’s costumes were stunning and really helped to not only set the period, but helped convey the characters, Haddon’s dress in the opening scene was particularly opulent and memorable. Mortezaei’s lighting and sound design was well polished and did not get in the way of the scenes but existed only to aid as all good sound and lighting designs should. Also, particularly worthy of note was how well executed the transitions between scenes were handled. There had obviously been a lot of time and effort spent into working them and that attention to detail kept the showing moving and the audience engaged.
All in all, I give this production 4 stolen love letters and this closing remark. It doesn’t take one who not only sees but observes to realise that this is an excellent adaptation of an Arthur Conan Doyle classic character, and that my dear readers, is elementary.
Photos courtesy of Craig O'Regan