02 October 2010

Review: A Study in Scarlet (A Study of)

A Study in Scarlet (A Study of)
Vicious Fish Theatre
1 October 2010
Son of Loft, Fringe Hub
season finished

Before driving, comedy, sex and even before Dr Who,  Robert Lloyd discovered Sherlock Holmes. A Study in Scarlet (A Study of) is the story of his obsession. As someone prone to nerdy obsession, I had to love it.

Twelve-year-old Robert fell in love with Sherlock Holmes in Dubbo. He was the first person in ten years to borrow Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's book from the local library and still hasn't recovered from his school production of a Holmes parody (with young Mr L in the lead) losing to an excerpt from The Crucible.

He intersperses his nerdy confessions, with an abridged telling of A Study in Scarlet, Doyle's first Holmes story. I admit that I haven't read any of the books – at 12, I was obsessed with Louisa May Alcott (Little Women) and KM Peyton (Flambards) and I'd discovered Dr Who on the telly – but wasn't surprised to see how much I already knew about the famous detective. Amazing fictional characters are so loved that they creep into our popular culture. And now I'm inspired to read about him. But I might go straight to book two, as I feel like I know Scarlet now.

Being alone on the stage, Lloyd is every character.  His Holmes is hot. He's suave and irresistible (and looks a bit like David Tennant). This is where this study gets really interesting, we get our deductive hats on and co-creator and director Scott Gooding steps in.

Gooding (who hadn't read Holmes but is familiar with nerdy obsession) not only saved the show from being called The Me in Holmes, but ensures that it's really a study of Lloyd.

Lloyd tells us how much he, as a lanky big-nosed kid, wanted to be like his tall, lean, sharp-nosed hero – but we are allowed to read deeper. We see how much his Holmes is the man he still wants to be, even when he admits that he's not smart enough to be Holmes and is only good at creating facades. Gooding makes sure that the man on stage is still revealing more than he intended.

More of this personal study and confession will add extra guts to the next season. There's still a hint of Robert playing a character when he's being himself. Watching a performer open themselves up personally on a stage – and become a person – is what makes good storytelling astonishing. It's what catches our hearts instead of our heads.

Study in Scarlet (A Study of) is an intriguing, honest and funny exploration of why we obsess with fictional creations. As a boy, Robert aspired to be Holmes. As a man we wonder if he still thinks Holmes (for all his depression and faults) is a better man than he is. Holmes was created by a man who probably felt the same. It's the recognition of the self doubt that audiences – including people who don't give a toss about Holmes – will love because we all want to hide behind a mask that makes us look better than we think we are.

This review appears on AussieThearte.com.

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