This show review by Gary Smith was originally published in The Hamilton Spectator on August 27th, 2022.
So, just who is “The Real Sherlock Holmes”?
Fans of the legendary fast-talking sleuth, know he sprang from the fertile imagination of feisty Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Or did he?
Did the deerstalker detective have a different provenance? Did someone influence Conan Doyle’s penning of all those dark-hearted Sherlock mysteries? Did “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and “Sherlock’s Last Case” really spring from Conan Doyle’s fertile brain without assistance?
If you don’t know you need to go to the Lighthouse Festival Theatre in Port Dover. That’s where lean and lanky actor Jeff Dingle spills the beans, as he trots across the Dover stage in search of adventure and romance.
Dingle, a terrific Conan Doyle, has exactly the right sense of style and pace to make this spirited Peter Colley comedy work.
He knows the perfect way to send up the drama, give the comedy a sly twist and create comic moments of perfect silliness. Dingle is aided and abetted by a smooth and smug Professor Bell from actor David Rosser.
Together this agreeable partnership gives this lunatic adventure story a sense of tremendous fun and wide-eyed innocence.
Add to the mix, wonderful Hamilton actress Susan JohnstonCollins who gives haughty and imperious Lady Louisa a perfect twist of sour lemon. JohnstonCollins is capable of controlling a scene when she’s simply standing around, artfully dabbing her nose with her always handy lace hankie. Or even better, lifting those incredibly arched eyebrows in mortal disdain.
These three actors, light up the Dover stage, dominating Colley’s play with intentionally elevated acting that makes their performances linger in the imagination long after the baddies are carted off to jail and Conan Doyle, not yet a Sir, kisses sweet little Jenny, (Blythe Hanes) who gives his crank an American twist.
A terrific set from William Chesney is evocative and imaginative
with its several levels and hidden pop-out surprises, it is a perfect landscape for the play’s nefarious goings-on.
Then too, Claudine Parker’s lived-in costumes have just the right touch of cheesiness about them to suggest old-time melodrama.
Add Wendy Lundgren’s mood-drenched lighting and you have a sense of mystery.
Mark McGrinder and Allan Cooke, playing an assortment of outrageous characters, from a fiendish bagpipe player to a One-Eyed Old Salt of the Sea, tend to veer somewhere over the top, but my goodness they do make you laugh.