Vertigo Theatre’s Sherlock Holmes and the Vanishing Thimble is warm and familiar

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This year’s production of Vertigo Theatre’s Sherlock Holmes and the Vanishing Thimble by R. Hamilton Wright, focuses on Edith Hudson (Kathryn Kerbes), the landlady of 221B Baker Street. And the story and production shine because of the direction and nuanced performances on stage.

Vertigo Theatre is exploring the complexity of the character of Sherlock Holmes in its trajectory of productions in the Holmes series in over the last decade. Back in 2014, they produced Sherlock Holmes and the Hounds of the Baskerville and in 2016 Sherlock Holmes and the case of the Jersey Lily. These productions were focused on the mystery and the driving character, Sherlock.

In 2019, Vertigo produced a new play written by Wright, Sherlock Holmes and the Raven’s Curse, that was deeply focused on the friendship between the two men and Watson’s grief of losing his wife.

This play opens to a late morning on Mrs. Hudson’s birthday and Sherlock (Mike Tan) and Watson, (Curt McKinstry) upon discovery of this fact, decide to take her for dinner. It’s seemingly a drama free day, with no case in his lap, Sherlock mulls around the flat, chatting with Watson and conversing easily with Mrs. Hudson. Watson laments that Sherlock’s latest case wasn’t even mentioned in the newspaper and the only thing of interest is that a man was killed. He was hung and then stabbed and his pinkie finger was removed.

This set up then leads to the mystery coming directly to Sherlock with Mrs. Hudson as his assistant in investigation. It’s her birthday adventure, complete with a visit from Inspector McDonald (Thomas Romero) and a mysterious woman (Vanessa Leticia Jetté). It all began with Mrs. Hudson telling Sherlock about her missing thimble.

The plot is convoluted. Mundane dialogue becomes relevant later on and it’s really easy to miss details. But it doesn’t really matter. The dynamics of the actors on stage and the innovative production design makes this play feel like a soft, familiar, blanket.

It would be really easy for Mrs. Hudson to come off as trite and flat, but Kerbes’s performance is warm and borderline adorable. On her birthday and she has her very own mystery to solve with Sherlock and it’s damn cute. Tan’s Sherlock is subtle and solid, and his dynamic with Kerbes is lovely. McKinstry is old hat in the role of Watson and he is a familiar presence. Romero and Jetté round out the acting nicely.

The set design by Hanne Loosen is illuminated by Ajay Badoni’s lighting design and they both compliment each other. The set is complex with a fireplace and living room furniture adorning the stage with knickknacks everywhere. It is all in the details, and Badoni has chosen to have black light gradually light the stage as the play progresses. It is so fitting to the unravelling mystery. Jordan Wieben’s costume design sets the play in 1894 and Alejandro Juliani’s sound design and composition give the play a light, fun, feel.

Overall, director Jenna Rodgers has ensured that the warm familiarity of Sherlock Holmes shines through the production and we get treated to it being Mrs. Hudson’s story, which is fitting as there is a whole theme of women’s suffrage in Britain and it’s a breath of fresh air that this story belongs to one of the sole constant female character in the Sherlock series.

Vertigo Theatre’s production of Sherlock Holmes and the Vanishing Thimble runs until April 3rd. More information is available online.

Kathryn Kerbes, Vanessa Leticia Jetté, Photo by Tim Nguyen

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