TEEN AMBASSADOR: ARIANNA REBELO | MARCH 20, 2016
Dramatic lighting and a dingy London apartment set the scene, as a tall woman figure walks into the room estranged over her case in progress to be solved. Chairs are sprawled across the stage, two doors and a fireplace reside in the back, and a large typewriter sits atop a desk where Dr.Watson has his usual writing session about his day. Aquila Theatre presented their true to the books Sherlock Holmes production, accompanied by Jackie Schram’s female portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, Aquila Theatre was surely breaking stereotypes that wouldn’t have occurred in the era of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books.
Unlike most Sherlock Holmes portrayals, Sherlock is a female played by a female. The lovely Jackie Schram, easily changed her American dialect to a posh British tone, and walked around the stage as if she had been acting since she was born. Her mannerisms, strut, and posture brilliantly captured Sherlock Holmes and although she doesn’t identify as a male like Sherlock, her well conceived acting overshadowed if you cared about her gender or not.
Aquila Theatre decided to tell the stories of Sherlock by staying as true to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books as much as possible, and even took little to no inspiration from film or television versions of Sherlock. The show covers three cases solved by Sherlock and Watson; the first being about a woman named Violet Hunter (played by Kirsten Foster) who decides to get support from Sherlock and Watson about taking a job as a governess with strange circumstances. The second case covers a husband (played by Michael Rivers) and wife (Violet Hunter) that live a “normal life,” but one day their “normal life” gets interrupted when a cottage appears in their neighbourhood; the wife is seen coming out of the cottage by her husband, resulting in an ongoing investigation with Sherlock and Watson as to why the wife was visiting a cottage she did not own or live in. The third case follows a wealthy client (played by Hemi Yeroham) who fears a photograph will prevent him from marrying without Sherlock and Watson’s help to find and destroy the photograph.
The set features antique decor set up to make the production go smoothly, although the storytelling wasn’t presented as smoothly. With limited time it’s understandable for Aquila Theatre to have their performance be fast paced, but with a German/Bohemian accent being added to the mix, it was at times difficult to follow.
With a cast of only five actors (two women and three men) Aquila Theatre’s performance was so thought out, if they had a larger cast the performance probably wouldn’t have felt as intimate. The costume changes went so quick you didn’t even realize there was a new character added, the emotions changed drastically and the lines were equally brought out with passion from one person to the next. Aquila Theatre proved that, unlike the acting industry today, diversity is necessary; their cast allowed for gender boundary breaking and also a large cultural diverse experience. Director Desiree Sanchez’s openness for breaking gender stereotype performances shows defiantly, as she has also produced many other “female portraying male” shows before, and was not cliche or eye rolling.
There were themes of conflict, themes of racism (second case), and themes of betrayal, but most of all there was comedy. The comedic lines were most graciously provided by Watson (played by Peter Groom) and his naive natured questions he had. Along with improvising a dog, a horse and carriage, and even a bed, Aquila Theatre knew not to oversaturate anything. Sound effects were carefully added from the dog barking and growling to the sound of the horse being quickly paced down a road. The actors effortlessly play along with their improvised stage objects and not once did you not understand what they were doing. Aquila Theatre isn’t kidding around.