[Victoria, BC] Chasing After Vampires at Craigdarroch Castle

6 Apr

By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

Holmes Sussex Vampire Poster Note: This production continues until April 12, 2014 at Craigdarroch Castle (1050 Joan Crescent). Performances are on April 3, 4, 5, 9, 10, 11 and 12 at 8 pm. For more information, visit the Giggling Iguana Productions official website here.

Giggling Iguana’s theatrical production of Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Sussex Vampire is one show that requires no garlic for audiences to keep in their pocket, should they be afraid of being bitten. In this adaptation of the short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, only those in the know will realize that perhaps no real occult science is afoot here. Instead, it is in seeing just how soon will Sherlock (David Radford) will solve this mystery. His authoritative and quick mind is skillfully played by Radford, and perhaps this casting was intentional to give long time theatre-goers of this company’s works a bit of a chuckle. He played Dracula in a previous production, Dracula: The Blood is the Life.

But the laughs in The Case of the Sussex Vampire is also well earned. A touch of light humour is written into the script when Holmes enters the scene dressed as a woman to fool Dr. Watson (Ian Case). The added yuk-yuks give these two crime-solving partners a different interpretation of the famous duo to act like the odd couple, getting into some fun, tossing rumpled up letters about until they eventually hit upon a letter from an old chum of Watson’s, Robert Ferguson (Michael Glover). These two are old schoolmates, and he invites the duo to come visit because there is a problem at the homestead.

Ferguson’s newborn son is constantly attacked by a blood sucking monster, his own mother! There is no reason why, and perhaps her Peruvian ancestry makes her a suspect. Maybe there’s something about her culture that is completely unknown to the British world that makes what she does seem unusual. But with Holmes and Watson present, maybe some answers can finally be found.

There’s a tease about the relationship between Ferguson’s new wife and his daughter from a previous marriage. His first wife is presumed dead; how that happened is perhaps due to an accident. This detail does not go in depth for audiences to understand how both Ferguson and his young pre-teen daughter Jacklyn (Emily Case) have become close over the years.

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But the new wife that Robert has wedded seems to be cause for some tension. The young Ms. Ferguson does not take an immediate liking to her right away, and the animosity felt in her premiere performance is a cleaver indication that Emily Case will no doubt be a figure to watch in the future of Victoria, British Columbia’s theatre scene. She is following in her father’s footsteps. She makes a fine debut in having done enough drama at school and from learning the ropes of being a character performer. With plenty of luminaries, she will no doubt learn fast.

When the supernatural tale takes place in a moving stage environment — where the audiences are the one doing the exercise — this story moves at a steady pace. Unlike past Iguana productions where the viewers are going up and down the stairs often, this one feels less strenuous on the hamstrings. From the second floor which becomes 221B Baker Street to the third and fourth to become the Ferguson household, the transitions are smooth. Perhaps, as etheric as the vampire truly is, so does the tale change from one set piece to another. And what’s next will arrive on Halloween.

The Castle is willing to have more than one production per year here, and all it takes is to have the right script and play to adapt said Ian Case. For some audience viewers, the hope is that other spaces of the Castle can be opened to give a touch of variety for future plays to come. To change the dining room to Holme’s flat was a spot-on choice given the fixed furniture set in there. As for other spaces, yes, some variety will eventually be needed for long time theatre-goers familiar with the floor plan to get some new surprises in, much like how Blood is the Life was played.

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