CLASSIC STORY - Julia van Dam, Jason Steele and Paul Sutherland star in the latest installment of the ongoing Sherlock Holmes series The Sign of Four, currently being staged at the Nickle Studio. David Dinan photo

The Sign of Four lights up the Nickle Studio stage

Solid acting and directing fuel latest in Sherlock Holmes series

Local audiences have been extremely fortunate to have been able to enjoy a superb theatrical experience via the ongoing Sherlock Holmes series – the latest of which is currently onstage at the Nickle Studio.

Sold-out shows since the series’ inception last fall with A Study in Scarlet and now wrapping the season with The Sign of Four have been cleverly crafted by director Albertus Koett.

The Sign of Four, which has been adapted by Koett as well, continues the series with a solid interpretation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic work. Koett has a story arch planned that will see Sherlock shows staged for two more full seasons via Central Alberta Theatre.

But back to The Sign of Four.

First off, the cast is terrific – particularly Jason Steele in the principle role, with Paul Sutherland in the role of Watson.

The two, who are both very strong actors singularly, are absolutely terrific as a team as they tackle the latest mystery/adventure.

After a murder in a locked room, where no one could have entered or exited, Holmes and Watson are called in to investigate. While this investigation is going on, they must also contend with the newly-discovered threat of the mysterious Professor Moriarty.

This show, even more than the last installment of one-acts that ran early this year, reflects Koett’s remarkable gift for adaptation.

He has pointed out that not only is he utilizing the main text of The Sign of Four – he also has drawn on content from all of Doyle’s stories that ultimately lend themselves to moving the plot along.

He’s done an exceptional job – The Sign of Four is a brisk and compelling story – and much of the credit has to go to Koett’s script which is polished, seamless and just simply sizzles with authenticity and elegance.

I found myself really caught up in the story, and again, a lot of that had to do with the structure and style of the story. Doyle’s works are of course engaging, but it takes a clever director/writer/adapter to really make them breathe onstage. Congratulations to Koett for an achievement that he should really be proud of.

As said already, Steele and Sutherland of course deserve praise for their superb performances as well.

Sutherland is the ‘perfect’ Watson – dedicated as ever to Holmes but not afraid to confront when necessary and think things through for himself. We see a more personal side of Watson in this show too, and it’s great to see the characters evolve in their individuality as the series advances.

The cast as a whole is solid, including Julia van Dam as Mary Morstan, Rebecca Lozinski as Theodora Sholto and Heather Lawrence as Beatrice Sholto – other very central figures in The Sign of Four. Many audience members will also recognize Ryan Mattila who makes a brief appearance as Captain Morstan. He isn’t on stage for long, but as Mattila has a way of doing, his performance is pretty riveting and memorable.

Kudos also to Gwendolyn McCagg for her wonderful costume design and again to Koett for his very creative set and sound design.

Interestingly, when Doyle had Sherlock Holmes killed off in one of the stories, people in and around London in particular were so devastated and outraged that some even wore black armbands as a symbol of grief in losing such a beloved character.

To their relief, Holmes re-appeared about six years later in further tales.

Locally, audiences will next see Holmes as the series continues with The Second Stain Sept. 20-22nd in the Nickle Studio. For ticket information, check out tickets.blackknightinn.ca.

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