In Toronto for a two week run, David Arquette plays the iconic title character in Starvox’s production of Sherlock Holmes. The 2.5 hour run time for the performance takes the audience on a fast-paced ride into late 19th century London where a body has washed up and Lord Neville has gone missing.
While the pacing was certainly quick, it made for a disjointed and difficult story to follow. There was campy humour at times, but it felt out of place as it wasn’t consistent. I am all for campiness if everyone commits to it the whole way through. However the characters dropping in and out of seriousness made the slapstick moments come off strange. Inspector Lestrade and Sherlock suffered the most from this, I felt. There would be dialogue delivered completely seriously followed by a clownish fall after a chair gives out from under his arm. It’s odd and jarring. Lady St. John’s over-the-top style also constantly pulled me out of the illusion of the play. Rather than face the characters who were speaking to her, she would always turn to face the audience for proclamations of all! her! lines! Speaking of lines, it would really help if the lead could enunciate more clearly and, most importantly, remember his lines.
Unanimously among my friends and I, the standout performance was Kyle Gatehouse who played Moriarty. It was powerful, commanding and his actions stayed true to his character the whole way through. I also enjoyed Andrew Shaver’s John Watson, who is the director and understudy of this character for our performance. Even though he inexplicably doesn’t need his cane anymore in Act II, Shaver’s subtle style of playing the straight man worked extremely well in an otherwise bizarre romp.
As a theatre school grad, I can’t help but look at the staging whenever I’m at a show. And this was done really creatively. I enjoyed the use of the projection screens along the forced proscenium to set the scenes, and the effect of the train ride going into tunnels was well done. The projections along the back wall may have needed another look at from different angles around the theatre. The effect was there, and it looked like maybe there were two scrims (mesh screens) because all of it projected a double image from where we were sitting. It wasn’t as noticeable for the designs and decor but when they’re scrolling text through, it was difficult to read. For the most part, the scene changes were well done, but the panels are not opague. So we can fully see two characters make a quick change behind it during an interrogation scene. The removal of the dead body in the study also gave the audience some chuckles as an ensemble member lifted just the torso up and carried it off stage while the chair and legs were still lying on the floor.
I’d like to think I’m not swayed by the portrayal of this literary character by other previous actors but, as my friend pointed out, Robert Downey Jr and Benedict Cumberbatch exude a certain compelling quality to Sherlock. David Arquette was very much David Arquette in this production and I found it hard to see past that. Honestly, the marketing of this production didn’t give a realistic impression of how slapstick it would be. Add to that the flubbing of lines and the over-acting by others, I’m not surprised that there were more than a few disappointed theatre goers judging by our audience and some of the online response I’ve seen.
Sherlock Holmes runs from October 27 to November 8, 2015 at the Ed Mirvish Theatre.