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Glenbrook Players: Sherlock Holmes and the Call of Cthulhu - Review by Jessica Scopelliti

“We live on a placid island of ignorance, in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.” So wrote H.P Lovecraft in the opening lines of The Call of Cthulu - a dark sentiment and apt indeed, yet one which I would hazard to say can be alleviated by a short sojourn to a charming community theatre on a chilly evening, glowingly lit by the full moon at the foot of the Blue Mountains. Director Mitchell Rist’s appropriation of H.P. Lovecraft and Arthur Conan Doyle’s writings in the Glenbrook Players’ production of Sherlock Holmes and the Call of Cthulhu makes for an amusing night out in Glenbrook. 

The familiar banter of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, played by Joshua Stojanovic and Alexander Smith, provides a comforting comic relief throughout the morbid tale of religious fanatics, occultists, murder and intrigue that is Sherlock Holmes and the Call of Cthulhu. Stojanovic and Smith bring fresh charm to their rendition of the renowned duo with memorable pronouncements like, “The man was in perfect health, apart from being bereft of life,” and other fun moments of candid comical conversation. Housemaid Mrs. Hudson, played by Robyn Pope, adds to the comedy with her exasperated looks and a memorably hilarious moment of being caught unawares in the midst of an Holmes imitation, ruminating and pipe-smoking in his wingback armchair. The audience’s gleeful response to this faux pas was a credit to Pope’s acting, which is far from elementary.

This toffee-British “whodunnit” accumulates in complexity as new characters are introduced to the plot, all attempting to piece together the murder of the jarringly-accented-American Professor Thurston’s uncle, Professor Angell (played respectively by Cassandra Steenbeeke and Stephen Wray). The mystery of a “shockingly frightful” sculpture with a “pulpy tentacled head, a grotesque and scaly body, with rudimentary wings,” causes insurmountable confusion for Thurston, whose chivalrous attempts to soothe the fainting damsel in distress - recently widowed Rhonda Johannsen (played by Sonia Petrov) - are amorously unsuccessful, but definitely enhanced by the resplendent purple blazer he sports throughout the show. An admirably convincing performance of the Cthulhu-crazed artist Henry Wilcox was undertaken by young actor Zak Harrison, whose tortured yet graceful gestures and terrorised yet piteous countenance in the throes of madness were captivating to witness.

Eventually, a collection of constables, captains and detectives, (Kye Eade, Anthony Thompson) along with the notorious Inspector Lastrade (played punctiliously by Gabriel Pope) join Holmes and Watson in attempting to unravel the series of spooky mishaps and murders, leading them to unearth the cult followers of this “octopus-dragon-human caricature” that still pleads the question, Cthul-who? The last characters to be introduced, Tabitha and Mira, (Layissa Mugridge and Lily Hampson), find themselves caught up in the fanaticism of Castro, the mystical and powerful old zealot who, during a crazed and confusing homily, professes sonorously, “We worship the great old ones!” giving a little insight to the inner workings of the Cthulhu cult. Actor John Bailey who plays Castro is an absolute highlight of the show, himself evoking the energy and style of “great old ones” such as Sir Richard Harris, Sir Ian McKellan and Peter O’Toole. Bailey’s resonant vocal talent hypnotises and permeates the theatre. His voice, complemented by his penetrating gaze and powerful stage presence, makes his performance alone reason enough to go and see the show.

If the call of Cthulhu hasn’t already compelled your curiosity. “He’s coming for you!” at Glenbrook School of Arts, 24th May - 1st June.

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