The Game’s Afoot: Inside the Rehearsal Hall
Director Mark Bellamy on Sherlock Holmes, dead bodies and the perfect sance music
photograph courtesy of vertigo theatre
Actor Blair Williams in The Game’s Afoot.
Vertigo Theatre’s The Game’s Afoot is a holiday whodunit featuring a company of local comedic talent. The play takes place in the Connecticut home of William Gillette, known for playing Sherlock Holmes on stage, who has invited his fellow cast members over for the weekend. Things get mysterious when one of his guests turns up dead. We caught up with director Mark Bellamy, who describes the play as a “roller-coaster of fun”, to learn more about the rehearsal process, how the show has evolved and what’s surprised him along the way.
How did actor Blair Williams find his own version of Sherlock Holmes?
Blair only plays Sherlock Holmes for about five minutes at the very top of the show. He actually plays William Gillette who wrote the first Sherlock Holmes play and then played him for many years. Gillette was a hugely famous Broadway star.
We explored how William Gillette played Sherlock Holmes and what Gillette was like as an actor. There’s a lot of stuff written about him and pictures and recently a film was discovered of Gillette playing Sherlock in 1916. It was found in a vault in France, sadly we couldn’t get access to that.
What was the easiest part of the rehearsal process?
There are a couple scenes, without giving too much away, where the play becomes very much a farce. So people running around with dead bodies and trying to hide them and entering and exiting simultaneously. Farce can be really technical and require perfect timing. Those scenes came really easily because this cast is very physical and they understand comedy so well. I deliberately cast Olympic calibre comedic actors. We have some very funny people in the room.
What was the hardest part?
The show opens with Blair performing William Gillette’s Sherlock Holmes play. It’s set in 1936, so it’s a different kind of acting than what we’re used to today. We played around with how big we could make it and how much it almost verges into melodrama. We spent more time on that scene percentage wise than the rest of the play because it was the trickiest thing to nail. It feels weird to us because it seems like we’re overacting like crazy. I want the audience to watch it and go “what’s going on? Oh, it’s a play within a play.” Right off the bat it’s mysterious.
What happened when you moved on to the stage?
It suddenly became more fun. There are seven different entrances in this play and suddenly we had all of the tricks and all of the toys. We had the real doors and stairs, all of the things we could only imagine in the rehearsal hall. We could actually see how falling out of closet works. I can’t say too much!
What else has evolved since moving on stage?
The thing that really informed us was actually the sound. Our sound designer Andrew Blizzard is so fantastic and he created this beautiful soundscape. It works so well, that there’s been times the cast has started to laugh because the sounds are just so perfect. It really lifts everything up. There’s a sance scene and the music that underscores that scene is so creepy spooky and deliciously fun.
The Game’s Afoot runs Nov. 13 to Dec. 7 at Vertigo Theatre, 115 9 Ave. S.E., 403-221-3708, vertigotheatre.com