Writer: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Adaptation: Douglas Maxwell
Director: Jake Smith
Reviewer: Chris Collett
Last year Northern Stage’s new actor programme North produced a compelling studio production of HG Wells’ War of the Worlds, which convincingly conjured an alien invasion through simple storytelling. This year it has replicated that success with a fast-paced version of Arthur Conan Doyle’s best-known Sherlock Holmes mystery.
Douglas Maxwell’s adaptation is largely faithful to the original but creates a back story in which Holmes and Watson are haunted by a botched case in Rome that ended in tragedy. Haunted by failure, their guilt bleeds into the narrative adding depth and tension. When Henry Baskerville turn up at Baker Street asking for their help to find a demonic hound that scared his uncle to death, Holmes is drowning himself in bourbon and Watson is plagued by terrifying nightmares. They need to solve the case to have any chance of finding peace.
James Gladdon’s Holmes is even more obnoxious than usual and a good deal drunker, while Jake Wilson Craw’s Dr Watson resembles a 1930s movie matinee idol, complete with rakish moustache. As Holmes is absent for much of the play, it’s Watson who remains at the action and Wilson Craw is the only performer to remain in one role.
Besides Holmes, Gladdon also ably takes on the parts of forelock-tugging servant Barrymore and the duplicitous Mr Stapleton. Siobhan Stanley’s main role is the assertive amateur anthropologist Dr Mortimer but she is at her best as the embittered housekeeper Mrs Barrymore who has a grudge against the Establishment. Completing the ensemble is Rebecca Tebbett who manages to convincingly play both Henry Baskerville and the object of his affections, Miss Stapleton.
Jake Smith’s production does an excellent job of transporting the audience to the bleak, misty mires of Dartmoor and goes large on gothic atmosphere without lapsing into cliché. This is largely thanks to Jeremy Bradfield’s creepy discordant score and Michael Morgan’s moody lighting design.
What’s most impressive though about The Hound of the Baskervilles is its fluid and clear storytelling, which makes light work of its source material’s dense plot.
Runs until 23rd September | Image: Contributed