The pocket-sized Jermyn Street Theatre, just south of Piccadilly Circus, has made an inspired choice for this year’s Christmas production: an hilarious, three-handed adaptation of Conan Doyle’s The Hound of The Baskervilles. The play has been directed (the highly talented Lotte Wakeham) at breakneck speed, with terrific energy, sense of pace and, above all, a true sense of style, and is performed by just three actors, all of whom are either on-stage all the time, or changing costume.
The writers Steven Canny and John Nicholson have taken many liberties with the original novel, but the result is a happy blend of madcap humour and surreal comedy with at least one laugh per minute: at times it is quite exhausting to watch and one needs the occasional ‘serious’ moment to recover before the next bout of laughter!
Simon Kane plays surely the densest Watson ever. His face is an ever-present picture of total ignorance and misunderstanding. He is alone amongst the cast in only doubling one role, that of Yokel 1. There are four Yokels altogether: don’t ask me why!
Shaun Chambers’ major role is that of Sir Henry Baskerville, but he also doubles most successfully and inventively in five other parts, including two more Yokels. He has a perfect face for this particular production, being able to use his staring eyes to great effect, looking especially scared whenever the ‘hound’ is mentioned!
Max Hutchinson is mostly Sherlock Holmes, but also plays the villain Stapleton and his wife, the butler and his wife and… another yokel! He is very busy – and all the funnier for that!
The three work superbly together in a true ensemble. Their sense of fun is evident throughout, especially in the ‘window’ scene at the end of Act One, which is unbelievably daft, and at the start of Act Two, where the first half of the play is repeated at breakneck speed because a member of the audience has tweeted during the interval that the pace of the play is lethargic! It is, in fact, anything but!
Perhaps the most successful moments of the evening are the rehearsed ‘ad libs’, the cast managing to get far more out of the play than the authors had put in!
In short, a superb, extremely amusing, feel-good evening’s entertainment! Strongly recommended!
Sets/costumes designed by David Woodhead and Louie Whitemore. The evocative sound design is by Andy Graham and very moody lighting by Derek Anderson.
The Hound runs until 13th January, but Jermyn Street only seats 60! so book early for a memorable evening!
Review by John Groves
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most celebrated Sherlock Holmes adventure gets a gloriously funny makeover. When Sir Charles Baskerville is found dead on his estate, with a look of terror still etched on his face and the paw prints of a gigantic hound beside his body, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson must unravel the mysteries surrounding the ancient curse of the Hound of the Baskervilles.
Cheeky and fast-paced, The Hound of the Baskervilles offers farcical surprises, brilliant theatrical invention, and a new twist on the greatest detective of all time. This adaptation was originally written by Steven Canny and John Nicholson for their company Peepolykus and enjoyed a hugely popular West End run in 2007.
Lotte Wakeham directs. Wakeham, Associate Director of the RSC’s Matilda, directed The Kissing Dance (OffWestEnd Best Director nomination) at Jermyn Street Theatre in 2011. She has directed musicals and plays for theatres including the Stephen Joseph, Scarborough, Leicester Curve, the MAC in Belfast and the Egg in Bath, and numerous UK tours. Louie Whitemore, who has recently received an Off-WestEnd nomination for Miss Julie at Jermyn Street Theatre, designs.
The production stars Max Hutchinson (The Comedy of Errors, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant of Venice – Propeller; An Ideal Husband – Chichester Festival Theatre) as Sherlock Holmes, Simon Kane (associate artist with Shunt; numerous comedy credits on BBC Radio 4; writing credits include That Mitchell and Webb Look) as Doctor Watson, and Shaun Chambers (Sweeney Todd – Twickenham Theatre; Praxis Makes Perfect – National Theatre Wales/Barbican) as Sir Charles Baskerville.
This is a co-production with English Theatre Frankfurt, mainland Europe’s largest and most successful English-speaking theatre.
THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Adapted Steven Canny and John Nicholson
Directed by Lotte Wakeham.
Wednesday 6th December – Saturday 13th January
Jermyn Street Theatre
16b Jermyn Street,
London, SW1Y 6ST