Theatre: RedefiningSherlock

admin | 杭州桑拿
4 Dec 2018

Theatre: Redefining Sherlock CHALLENGE: Steven McLean as Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes And The Case Of The Jersey Lily. Picture: Marina Neil

TweetFacebookNEWCASTLE actor Steven McLean was fascinated when living in London a few years ago to find that 221B Baker Street, the residential address of fictional sleuth Sherlock Holmes, had become a museum devoted to the character.

‘‘They receive letters there addressed to Holmes from people around the world seeking his help,’’ he notes.

McLean’s fascination with Holmes has been a factor in him being chosen to play the detective in Newcastle Theatre Company’s Sherlock Holmes And The Case Of The Jersey Lily, opening on November 15.

The comedy-drama, by American writer Katie Forgette, brings together fictional and real-life characters.

The former include Holmes, his offsider Dr Watson, and Holmes’ criminal arch-enemy, Professor Moriarty, with playwright Oscar Wilde and renowned actress Lillie Langtry among the latter.

Langtry had many romantic liaisons during her career in the late 19th century, including one between 1877 and 1880 with Britain’s crown prince, Albert Edward, who subsequently became King Edward VII.

The affair began when the prince arranged to sit beside Langtry at a dinner party after being fascinated by a portrait of her by the renowned painter John Everett Millais.

Like Langtry, Millais was from the island of Jersey, and he painted her holding a lily that grew on that island, leading to her becoming known as ‘‘the Jersey lily’’.

Forgette’s play is set a decade after the actress’s affair with the Prince of Wales, with criminals who have obtained letters that passed between Langtry and the prince using them to blackmail her.

Oscar Wilde, a friend of Holmes, takes her to see the super sleuth.

As well as Steven McLean, the cast includes Graham Wilson as Dr Watson, Sandy Aldred as Lillie Langtry, Malcolm Young as Oscar Wilde, Paul Predny as Professor Moriarty, Jenn Masson as two housekeepers, and Drew Pittman in the roles of a confidante of Queen Victoria and Moriarty’s henchman. The play is directed by David Murray.

The challenge of playing Holmes, Steven McLean says, is for an actor to put his own stamp on him so that he doesn’t become a caricature.

‘‘I want to make him real, a person who, like everyone, has failings. That way audience members might see something of him in themselves.’’

Graham Wilson points out that the play’s mix of fictional and real people had its counterpart in the Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Doyle had a friend called Dr James Watson who had worked with people with the characteristics of Holmes. And, in one of the stories, Watson is referred to as ‘‘James’’.

Like the fictional character, the real Dr Holmes was viewed as dependable, he said.

Sandy Aldred sees Lillie Langtry as a very real person in the play.

‘‘She’s quite strong, but she also has a vulnerable side.And she wants to make sure that men fall in love with her,’’ she said.

And, in researching Langtry, she found the play included a lot of references to her real life. It was Oscar Wilde, she discovered, who encouraged Langtry to become involved in theatre when she made London her home.

Malcolm Young is enjoying playing Oscar Wilde.

‘‘He’s a fascinating person, flamboyant and witty. And he uses a lot of lines from his plays in this story,’’ he said.

Forgette has set the story in the year that Oscar Wilde was writing The Importance Of Being Earnest, and there are lines from the play, as well as it initially having a slightly different title. And a live version of the play’s imperious Lady Bracknell makes an amusing appearance at one point.

Sherlock Holmes And The Case Of The Jersey Lily opens at the NTC Theatre, 90 De Vitre Street, Lambton, on Saturday, November 15, at 8pm, with a 2pm matinee on Sunday, November 16. The show then plays Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, at 8pm, until November 29, plus a 2pm matinee on Saturday, November 22. Tickets: $28, concession $22. Bookings: 49524958.

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