Murder, mystery, big laughs highlight Lighthouse’s best show of the season

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By Mike Renzella

The Haldimand Press

PORT COLBORNE—If you’re looking for an evening of non-stop hilarity, wrapped around an entertaining old-fashioned murder mystery, then look no further than Lighthouse Festival’s world premiere of the new play The Real Sherlock Holmes.

This play is a true showstopper, with the wizards at Lighthouse turning an incredibly versatile set into a wide variety of locations, including laboratories, Scottish castles, a stormy sea at night, a prison cell, and more. Utilizing dazzling lighting and sound effects, the work is remarkably seamless, creating the illusion that you are travelling across the countryside along with the main characters as they chase down a murderer.

Canadian playwright Peter Colley knows how to blend comedy and menace with near surgical precision. While the show features several over-the-top characters meant to draw big laughs, the central mystery at its core remains interesting throughout, and has a great twist ending.

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The story focuses on a young Arthur Conan Doyle, long before he created the iconic Sherlock Holmes, as a young medical student who gets drawn into a murder investigation thanks to his instructor, Professor Bell. Jeff Dingle as Doyle and David Rosser as Bell have a terrific chemistry right from the first scene, with their interactions playing out like scenes from a classic British sitcom. 

Their investigation leads them to the doorstep of Lady Louisa and her relative Jenny, played by Susan Johnston-Collins and Blythe Haynes respectively. Along the way they meet a rogues’ gallery of characters, deftly brought to life by a small cast of actors handling multiple roles. The acting chops on display across this range of broad side characters makes for excellent comedy. Each time an actor appears as another, even more outlandish character, the resounding bouts of laughter from the crowd grew larger and more sustained.

Nicole Wilson shines in multiple roles as a mysterious hag, a morgue attendant, and more, while both Alan Cooke and Mark McGrinder repeatedly appear as a series of recurring characters, each completely distinct and with their own set of hilarious tics. Honestly, it’s an acting showcase that needs to be seen in person to fully appreciate.

It’s ultimately up to Dingle as the young, intrepid Doyle to anchor the show and keep the narrative momentum flowing. He is able to imbue the famous author with a nervous energy that fits the story perfectly, serving as a perfect straight man to the madness unfolding around him. Pulling from research on Doyle, the character is presented as highly susceptible to mystical elements, such as ghosts, selkies, and other creatures of folklore – something that allows the play to achieve a certain otherworldly charm as Doyle occasionally encounters what he believes to be apparitions or fantasy creatures.

After playing to sold out audiences at the Lighthouse Theatre in Port Dover, the show is now playing at the Roselawn Theatre in Port Colborne through September 18. If you like to laugh, The Real Sherlock Holmes will give you exactly what you want, enough belly laughs to keep you entertained from beginning to end, and enough technical wizardry on display to leave you dazzled. What are you waiting for? Go get your tickets and enjoy the show!