Red Deer playwright Albertus Koett’s popular The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes will draw to a close this weekend after 24 sold-out performances over two years.
The Central Alberta Theatre series has accomplishing what few — if any — other live theatrical presentations managed to do in Red Deer: consistently put bottoms in seats.
There hasn’t been an empty chair in Nickle Studio during the entire run of the series that started in September 2017 with A Study in Scarlet, and continued with four other stage shows that were adapted by Koett from eight stories by Arthur Conan Doyle.
The final instalment, The Empty House, will wrap up the locally written series with a twist during the Thursday through Saturday run, which is already sold out.
Koett, the series’ director as well as writer, admits he stumbled on to a great formula for generating ticket sales.
After admissions to the initial show were quickly snapped up, Koett decided to sell tickets to the rest of the plays in blocks, to allow the cast and crew to scoop some up for family and friends before they were all spoken for.
He created The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series Facebook page, which notified followers when blocks of tickets would go on sale. Ten to 15 tickets per show were made available for purchase on four different dates before a show opened.
A combination of good word-of-mouth about the shows and scarcity fuelling demand led to tickets selling out within five to 10 minutes each time they were released — leaving Koett grateful for the local support.
He believes it helped that his fast-paced plays are based on a familiar and beloved detective and his sidekick.
They were also staged by a talented cast and crew — including a core group of seven people who stuck with the series for all five plays and 24 performances over two years.
Like the many off-shoot Sherlock Homes movies and TV shows, these scripts are fundamentally based on the friendship between Holmes (Jason Steele) and Dr. Watson (Paul Sutherland) — with some murder mystery subplots thrown in.
Koett said his scripts range between being heavily influenced by the books to using Doyle’s stories as a mere jumping off point.
The repeat cast includes landlady Mrs. Hudson (Lorraine Stuart) and Inspector Lestrade from Scotland Yard (Trysten Luck).
Koett said many other first-time and veteran actors helped fill out the story lines. He feels fortunate to have also relied on the talents of lighting designer-stage manager Braden Guido and costumer Gwendolyn McCagg for the entire series.
The Empty House will continue the story of Holmes just after he has apparently tumbled to his death into the thunderous waters of Reichenbach Falls.
Koett doesn’t want to reveal what happens to Holmes. “He will appear, but not necessarily the way people think…”
While the Red Deer leg of the sparse, yet imaginative, productions will end here, Koett is already talking to an Edmonton theatre company about staging his The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in Alberta’s capital, possibly over the next year or two.
Since his aim is to eventually publish these scripts, Koett credits the local cast and crew for helping him essentially “workshop” and fine tune his Holmes plays in Red Deer.