‘The Mystery of the Valkyrie’ was cinematic.
From the silver screen to the Playhouse stage at QPAC, Woodward Productions brings a sizzling mystery of true Sherlock Holmes proportions to Brisbane audiences. In a world premiere season, ‘The Mystery of the Valkyrie’ features all the classic heroes and antiheroes in a tapestry of mystery and intrigue that you won’t want to miss.
‘The Mystery of the Valkyrie’ features a mysterious killer substance, a hidden antidote and a villain hell bent on world cleansing. It’s a classic trope that is expertly executed by playwright and director, Michael Futcher. The entire production is told from the perspective of Dr John Watson (Anthony Gooley) as he recounts the ‘final moments’ of Sherlock Holmes (Eugene Gilfedder). Despite the somewhat predictable plot twists, the script was wholly entertaining and maintained a decent pace throughout. The archetypal characters and exaggerated styling, gave audiences exactly what they were hoping for – a Sherlock Holmes film, reimagined for the stage.
No theatrical element was left unturned for this creative team of epic proportions. Lighting design by David Walters was instrumental in creating an atmospheric and cinematic space. Walters was not afraid of using darkness and leaving the actors on stage in minimal lighting. The use of colour and hues within the lighting design, solidified the palette of the production and firmly rooted it in its time period.
Video design by Craig Wilkinson was the catalyst for many jaw dropping moments in the production. The attention to detail and creative projection on virtually every surface melded the magic of cinema with the magic of theatre in a way that left audiences stunned. From striking imagery of a train carriage perfectly outlined on the moving set, to a running river, no moment was left unexplored by Wilkinson.
Sherlock Holmes cannot exist without an epic score to accompany and Phil Slade as sound designer and composer did not disappoint. Like every good score, you didn’t entirely realise it was underpinning virtually every moment of tension. Like words on a page, the music told a story of its own and brought an additional level of tension to the production.
The culmination of sublime technical design was the waterfall scene at the conclusion of the show. The contrast from the darkness in the previous scene to the blinding light of the waterfall was nothing short of magical. The curtain lifted to haze billowing out from behind and you had to squint as your eyes adjusted to the bright light. It was stagecraft at its best and created an absolute wow moment for the audience.
Set and costume design by Isabel Hudson was instrumental to the visual feast that was ‘The Mystery of the Valkyrie’. Hudson’s set was a tapestry of moving parts that mimicked the mind palace of Sherlock Holmes. You were never entirely sure where the set pieces were going to land and what space they would create. Costuming firmly cemented the production in its time period and assisted to signpost when actors changed characters.
When a playwright directs their own work, something magical happens. Michael Futcher successfully created a world both on the page and on the stage. Transitions were seamless, character interaction genuine and tension ebbed and flowed keeping audiences on the edge of their seat.
Fight direction by Andy Fraser and movement direction by Dan Venz worked simultaneously to create dynamic fight scenes that integrated seamlessly with the set movement. These scenes were nothing short of cinematic.
‘The Mystery of the Valkyrie’ brought together a cast list of Brisbane theatre royalty who gave breath, intention and years of experience to Futcher’s words. Eugene Gilfedder led the charge as Sherlock Holmes. Gilfedder’s performance was measured with sustained intensity throughout. Sherlock was effectively juxtaposed by Anthony Gooley as Dr John Watson. The longsuffering sidekick was portrayed with charm and genuinity by Gooley.
Bryan Probets as both Moriarty and Ames portrayed two characters in stark opposition to each other. Swapping from evil criminal mastermind to bumbling servant, Probets delivered a masterclass in dramatic and comedic timing.
Kimie Tsukakoshi as the poised Irene Adler kept both the audience and the other characters at an arm’s length throughout the production. She commanded the stage and held an incredible amount of power in her small frame.
Helen Cassidy and Danny Brown as Inspector Macdonald and Sergeant Turner respectively were the second hero and sidekick duo within the character dynamics. Delivering comedic relief, both Cassidy and Brown bounced off each other in a pairing that just worked.
Darcy Brown as Mycroft Holmes was the character you loved to hate. Embodying the classic characteristics of Mycroft, Brown provided an interesting power dynamic play with Sherlock. The two actors sparred off each other with great skill.
Rounding out the cast was a host of talented ensemble who played a treasure trove of characters. Jackson McGovern was a showstopper with his larger than life characterisation. McGovern fully embodied each character and gave incredible attention to detail. Rowan Chapman and Sarah McIntosh brought bountiful energy to the stage and yet again showed how many incredibly talented artists there are right on our doorstep.
‘The Mystery of the Valkyrie’ is proof of the value that comes from funding the arts. This piece of work would not exist without the generous donation of funds, time and creative energy from the community and it’s exciting to see what world premiers will feature on Brisbane stages in the future.
‘‘The Mystery of the Valkyrie’ performed until Sunday, 19 March 2023 at Playhouse, QPAC. For more information on future Woodward productions visit their website.