Sarah Anderson with permission for Varsity

Reviving Arthur Conan Doyle and William Gillette’s iconic Sherlock Holmes is no mean feat, but injecting life into this play alongside a long-forgotten theatre society is something altogether more daunting. Directors Kate Austin and Matthew Copeman attack this endeavour with gusto, breathing life back into the Fitz Theatre Society with a popular detective story to entice the crowds.

As is the case with any revival, however, more than one resurgence is undoubtedly needed. Ambitious sound and lighting choices frequently broke the production’s suspense filled atmosphere, devolving scenes to an almost pantomime level of comedy with Moriarty (Louis Hadfield) striding across the upper echelons of the stage only to be followed by a wayward spotlight. The comedic value of such awkward technical moments was not lost on the audience who enjoyed these healthy doses of humour, with crashes heard seconds after they were mentioned. Nonetheless, the audience was ultimately left wishing for a return to the strong notes of the opening act.

"As is the case with any revival, however, more than one resurgence is undoubtedly needed"

Miss Faulkner’s (Esme Thomas) piercing scream in the opening scene was perfectly timed and entirely unexpected, immersing the audience entirely into the tension and drama of the play while offering a clear invitation into the depths of the characters’ emotions. Such tension continued in the perceptive staging of Sidney Prince (Betty Thompson) and James Larrabee (Kate Austin) whose furtive conversation is injected with a sharp edge from Moriarty’s shadowy presence, listening to the two from the theatre’s balcony. Madge Larrabee’s (Hannah Le Seelleur) diegetic piano playing was also noted as not simply impressive but accurately atmospheric, serving as a beautiful reminder of the cast’s varied talents.

Despite contending with the unexpected challenge of cast illness on the opening night, director Austin’s portrayal of Larrabee was admirable; not only was her acting relatively seamless, but her commitment to the play’s energy from the outset was evident. She maintained the production’s pace as a directorial figure while simultaneously showcased the hard work of her cast as a fellow actor.

"The acting seen in this production was both dynamic and delightful" 

As the play’s greatest strength, the acting seen in this production was both dynamic and delightful. The cast made the evening a genuine pleasure - special mention must go to the eponymous Sherlock Holmes (Marta Zalicka) whose witty and dramatic performance brought the play together. In addition, Sidney Prince (Betty Thompson) was undeniably one of the most animated characters of the show and an integral part of its vitality to say the least.


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Despite this, the comedic quality of the production bled from technical difficulties into the realm of performance. I felt as if I was watching a fusion of ‘Sherlock Holmes - the pantomime edition’ as the second act progressed. Prince’s ailing arrival at Watson’s office highlighted this as the performances slipped into the realm of hilarity. However, the epitome of comedy struck towards the end of the play as a one-hand-handcuffed Moriarty was led offstage, detracting from the climax of the play and rupturing the mysterious atmosphere that the cast had attempted to establish until then.

"I felt as if I was watching a fusion of ‘Sherlock Holmes - the pantomime edition'"

Despite its shortfallings, this play was an ambitious and enjoyable rendition of one of the greatest detective stories of all time. With some impressive acting, creative use of sound and lighting, as well an engaging costume and set, Austin and Copeman have created a show that proves that the game is, most certainly, afoot at the new Fitz Theatre Society.

Sherlock Holmes is showing at the Fitzwilliam College Auditorium until 3 February.