'Holmes and Watson' by Jeffrey Hatcher
Produced by Stage Centre Productions at North York's Fairview Library Theatre
A jolly good mystery to unravel in Stage Centre’s ‘Holmes and Watson’
I’ve often wondered if the Sherlock Holmes/Dr. Watson’s storyline has run its course in twenty-first-century theatre. Even though ‘Holmes and Watson’ premiered in 2017, I’ve always found the challenge behind these period pieces remains to do justice to the playwright’s intent while ensuring that audiences still enjoy the plot. Can audiences enjoy these mystery genres where we are asked to put clues together ourselves as the plot unravels? This is tough since our woke world right now demands instant gratification from all kinds of entertainment we are now seeking.
I must applaud Stage Centre Productions for going against the grain and staging Jeffrey Hatcher’s ‘Holmes and Watson’ because the company made it work.
Theatre lovers are craving a return with a vengeance. I’ve seen it myself in surveying other audiences while I’ve waited for plays to begin. We all want a good story to follow.
‘Holmes and Watson’ is a good story for the local theatre community.
It appears that famed detective Sherlock Holmes is dead. Or is he as the body was never retrieved? That is the question both Dr. Watson and we unravel in playwright Jeffrey Hatcher’s interesting storyline of intrigue and deception.
Following the famed detective’s death at Reichenbach Falls with his nemesis Professor Moriarty (Jeremy Henson). Holmes’s trusted assistant Dr. John Watson (Daryn DeWalt) is called to disprove the many fake notices that Sherlock is truly alive. Through a newspaper clipping, Watson learns three men have been admitted to a remote mental asylum claiming to be Sherlock (Ted Powers, Lawrence Stevenson, and Joseph van Veen). Each of these men matches Holmes’s physical description. One of these gentlemen is quoted with something the only real Sherlock would know. Watson travels to the asylum to confront these three men while also having to deal with its ghoulish-looking Matron (Mickey Brown) and silently towering Orderly (Chip Thompson).
Visually, Stage Centre and Pierre Rajotte’s fascinating set design caught my eye as I sat down in my seat. I try to leave at least 10 minutes before a performance to study the set if it is possible. I encourage future audience members to do the same.
The set has a film noir cinematic style and flair, thanks to Director Marc Siversky and Rajotte’s clever design. This style allows the playing space to become different locales without having to incorporate laborious set changes, and that’s a huge bonus for the audience not to have to sit through a few moments of change. Clay Warner’s lighting design effectively incorporates moments of shadowy lights to create that sense of mystery about the story as to what is coming next. Marc Siversky and Eric Dupois’s video design is also intriguing. Whether it was intentional or not, I liked the focus on enlarging some of the designs which certainly highlighted the foreboding atmosphere. Victoria Richardson’s Costume designs are wonderful period recreations.
Director Siversky’s solid control over the plot’s action keeps it moving at a good pace. There are moments of lengthy dialogue where audiences must pay careful attention to keep up with the quickly moving plot.
Because there are numerous twists, I am doing my best not to spoil surprises for future audiences.
Daryn DeWalt remains confidently solid as Watson. Robert Frances boldly maintains that aura of something not sitting just right as Dr. Evans. The three Sherlock Holmes in Ted Powers, Lawrence Stevenson and Joseph van Veen believably create uniquely yet somehow similar characteristics of the famed detective. It was a treat to watch how each of them seized the moment to explore the actual Holmes they are searching for. Jeremy Henson’s blustery Moriarty made me smile because he successfully captured his essence.
Final Comments: A lot of information is thrown at the audience and there were moments when I kept wondering where all of this is going. Trust me, it will make sense but stick with the story and don’t lose sight of playwright Jeffrey Hatcher’s clever plot because it does work.
There’s an adage I’ve seen posted. Some may consider it tiresome while others may consider it appropriate:
“I didn’t see that coming.”
This thought came to my mind once everything becomes clear in the plot.
Nice work Stage Centre. Thank you for not including an intermission because the momentum would have been lost.
Finally, dear reader, don’t spoil the plot surprises for future audiences.
Running time: approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.
‘Holmes and Watson’ runs to October 8 at Fairview Library Theatre, 35 Fairview Mall Drive, North York. For tickets call the Box Office (416) 299-5557 or www.stagecentreproductions.com.
‘Holmes and Watson’ by Jeffrey Hatcher
Directed by Marc Siversky
Stage Manager: Malcolm Byrne
Set Design: Pierre Rajotte
Lighting Design: Clay Warner
Costume Design: Victoria Richardson
Sound Design: Marc Siversky and Scott Griffin
Video Design: Marc Siversky and Eric Dupois
Props: Shannon Breedon
Performers: Daryn DeWalt Robert Frances, Chip Thompson, Mickey Brown, Ted Powers, Lawrence Stevenson, Joseph van Veen, Jeremy Henson