PLAY: Sherlock Holmes and the Curse of the Queen’s Diamond
CAST: Robert Fridjhon, Craig Jackson, Bronwyn Gottwald
DIRECTOR: Alan Swerdlow
VENUE: Pieter Toerien’s Theatre On The Bay, January 18 to January 28
Reviewer: Peter Feldman
Renowned director Alan Swerdlow and Robert Fridjhon have combined their creative forces to come up with an engaging and inventive satirical romp into the world of Sherlock Holmes.
This is one case that the famed detective never wanted mentioned or written about – and after watching the antics on stage who can really blame him?
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s celebrated fictional detective is given a new sense of purpose in a production that breaks all the rules, a scenario where Monty Python meets the Goons. According to director Swerdlow, he worked within the style of Victorian/Edwardian Music Hall routines.
It is a weird and wacky pastiche that we enter and any resemblance to the real workings of Conan Doyle are purely coincidental. The props and the scenery are designed for quick changes and wooden benches cleverly double up as a carriage and then a train.
The script, penned by Fridjhon and assisted by Bronwyn Gottwald, is fresh and lively and embraces the key characters who have dominated Arthur Conan Doyle’s numerous books. They are brought vividly to life by a sinister looking Fridjhon (playing both Holmes and his arch nemesis Moriarty), Craig Jackson (as Dr Watson, Queen Victoria and other entities) and Bronwyn Gottwald (as the faithful housekeeper Mrs Hudson, Irene Adler and Lord and Lady Salisbury among others). The performers play wonderfully off each other and one can forgive them for occasionally corpsing on stage or the odd line fluff because it all adds to the utter insanity of the piece. They are having a good time and this transcends into the audience. When the hilarious Jackson emerges as Queen Victoria in full regalia we can only applaud the sheer inventiveness in the costume department. Jackson is an amazingly adept actor and each of the characters he briefly portrays are striking personalities.
The story, briefly, involves the theft of the massive Kohinoor diamond belonging to Queen Victoria. The famed sleuth and Dr Watson are dispatched by Her Royal Majesty to find it. The yarn takes the team to different locations where they eventually encounter the evil Moriarty who holds the key to the mystery.
The play was commissioned by Pieter Toerien as a bit of light entertainment for the end-of-year silly season and is done in the style of Swerdlow’s previous productions of ‘Round the World in 80 Days.’ ’39 Steps’ and ‘Travels With My Aunt.’
He says there is complete veracity in the historical bones of the story – the Maharajah Duleep Singh, his daughter Sophia, and their close friendship with Queen Victoria. The splendid hats, headgear and costume props are the work of Malcolm Terrey, with the striking costumes coming from a multiple of sources. Fridjhon and Swerdlow built and clothed Queen Victoria with the assistance of Tiffani Cornwall, the stage manager, and Francois van der Hoven.
So, if you are looking for a fluffy two-hours of innocuous fun at the theatre this festive season then this take on Sherlock Holmes is an ideal holiday outing for the whole family and even those without one.
(This review is from the Johannesburg run of the show, with the same cast.)
* Performances are from Mondays to Saturdays at 8pm.
Tickets are R100, R120 and R160 and can be booked at Computicket; or by calling 021 438 3301.