“Exit, pursued by a bear,” was what came to mind at the end of the very opening scene – and this production of The Hound of the Baskervilles pulls it off even better than some productions of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, from which that stage direction derives. The ‘hound’ of the show’s title is more of a mythical being than an actual small hunting dog, and this production makes no attempt at visualising it, relying instead on a combination of characters’ fears and some decent sound effects.
The amplified sound was occasionally too good: from my vantage point, the actors seemed to be competing with it when speaking their lines over it. The programme lists ten characters, though it’s at least a couple more than that, with live music played by Alistair Smith, who also doubles up as a hotel concierge and a post office employee. The music helps to gather momentum in what is a moderately paced show. Perhaps interrogation is a tried and tested method of gathering information, but when it happens as repeatedly as it does in this show, I found myself wondering whether I was watching an episode of BBC Television’s Mastermind. One or two characters did ‘pass’ on a question, even if they didn’t say the word ‘pass’ – perhaps I should have kept a tally of how many questions were answered in two minutes.
The costumes (Amanda Beauchamp) were befitting both of the characters and of the time period, and Tom Thornhill’s Sherlock Holmes had suitably clipped tones. The show’s attention to the story’s details is impressive, but it overexpresses itself sometimes, particularly in a long explanation from Holmes towards the end of proceedings when pretty much everything is explained, even though the hound being investigated has been discovered and, well, dealt with, in an earlier scene. Given the show’s title, there were several subplots that, depending on one’s perspective, either distracted from the main narrative or added layers of complexity and intricacy that helped to maintain interest.
Direct addresses to the audience by Dr John Watson (SP Howarth) progressed the story, and with a fairly minimalist set, the scene changes are relatively slick. The odd slip-ups, hardly a novelty in live theatre, were well covered, the cast evidently bouncing off one another’s energy. A family-friendly show, without a scintilla of swearing, and with no strobe lighting (worth pointing out for anyone who is affected by that), it’s inclusive and accessible, and you need not know a thing about the Arthur Conan Doyle novel of the same name to follow proceedings.
But, goodness me, it could have been considerably pacier. Maybe it was, to an extent, the theatre being uncomfortably hot (a regular patron advised at the interval that it is too cold in the winter months) – and on that count, I was easily sympathetic to the cast, wearing coats, hats and scarves to brave the great outdoors of certain scenes at night. To a larger extent, however, there were moments in which the audience found itself waiting for something to happen, which tested my patience. That said, the cast are committed and enthusiastic.
Review by Chris Omaweng
The Hound of the Baskervilles is a timeless masterpiece of detective fiction that has captured the imaginations of readers and theatre-goers for over a century. In this gripping stage adaptation, the audience will follow Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson as they unravel the mystery of a supernatural hound that is terrorizing the moors of Devonshire.
Cast and crew
Tom Thornhill as Sherlock Holmes
SP Howarth as Dr John Watson
Mark Beauchamp as Sir Henry Baskerville
Ben Howarth as Jack Stapleton
Emma Riches as Beryl Stapleton/Laura Lyons/Eliza Barrymore
Paul Winterford as Dr Mortimer/John Barrymore/Inspector Lestrade
Directed by Andrew Hobbs
Written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Adapted for the stage by Andrew and David Hobbs
Original music composed and performed – Alistair Smith
Costumes design – Amanda Beauchamp
Lighting designed – Matthew Karmios
Company Stage Manager – Mary Anne Coleman
Casting Director – Lucyelle Cliffe
Communications & Public Relations – Anton Shelupanov
The Hound of The Baskervilles
Classic Mystery Adaptation
23rd – 27th May 2023