Oscar Wilde walks into Sherlock Holmes’ office and – no, it’s not the set-up of a joke, but rather the premise of Katie Forgette’s Sherlock Holmes and The Case of The Jersey Lily, playing now at Vertigo Theatre.
Sherlock Holmes (Haysam Kadri) meets Irish playwright Oscar Wilde (Paul Welch) and famed Victorian actress Lily Langtry (Chantal Perron) in Forgette’s comedic play that blends reality and literary fantasy. With the help of his assistant Dr. John Watson (Karl Sine), Sherlock sets out to retrieve Lily’s private letters to the Prince of Wales, letters that threaten to destroy both her’s and the crown’s reputation. The case of blackmail turns deadly when Sherlock’s nemesis Professor Moriarty (Christian Goutsis) reveals himself to be the mastermind behind the plot against Lily.
Directed by Craig Hall, Vertigo Theatre’s production can be best described as goofy, campy fun. Who will enjoy the production most are literary nerds who will undoubtedly pee themselves laughing at jokes like the working title for Oscar’s latest play, The Importance of Being Forthright. But it’s Hall’s staging that really brings the production alive as the script itself is so-so on serving an interesting Sherlock Holmes mystery. Halls’s eye for theatricality, like Moriarty’s absurdly dramatic entrance, elevates this literary farce to a howling night out.
And David Fraser’s sets are simply striking. Sherlock’s office reflects the detective extraordinaire’s refined tastes, while also hinting at the character’s eccentric persona. Likewise, Moriarty’s lair teeters on “cartoonish supervillainy” – to quote Mr. Smithers from The Simpsons, especially with Fraser’s dramatic lighting.
Vertigo Theatre, as it often does, has brought in a superb group of actors for this farce. Kadri’s Sherlock is cool and collected, but very cocky. Why shouldn’t he be? The man is practically a supercomputer (which sucks some fun out of the play, honestly). Sine’s Watson is a bit of a bumbling, yet capable, assistant, especially when Lily is involved. The banter between Kadri and Sine’s star-struck Watson is highly amusing.
Perron plays Lily, an actress with plenty of secrets to her name. Perron’s tough persona is impenetrable, with her upright posture and sharp delivery, proving a real challenge for the oafish conspirators John Smyth (Michael Tan) and “Mrs. Irma Tory” (Natascha Girgis). Goutsis’ comically evil Moriarty is a formidable opponent – when he’s not struggling to open giant steel doors, that is.
And then, there’s Welch as Oscar Wilde, a foppish character if ever there were any. The character has perhaps the best lines in the play, and Welch’s comedic prowess knocks them out of the park. Welch’s performance is the cherry on top of this deliciously fun production.
Vertigo Theatre’s Sherlock Holmes and The Case of The Jersey Lily is farce done right. A must-see.
Vertigo Theatre’s Sherlock Holmes and The Case of The Jersey Lily runs May 14 – June 14.
For more information about the show, including how to purchase tickets, visit: http://www.vertigotheatre.com/mystery-series/#sherlock-holmes