AdaptationComedyNorth East & YorkshireReview

The Hound of the Baskervilles – York Theatre Royal

Reviewer: Christopher Holmes

Director: Lotte Wakeham

Writer: Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle

Adapted for the stage by: Steve Canny and John Nicholson

Perhaps the most famous of his four crime novels, Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles is inarguably his greatest masterpiece.

This infamous detective classic follows the story of Dr James Mortimer who calls on Sherlock Holmes after he discovers that his friend and confidante Sir Charles Baskerville is found dead. Without giving too much away here, for those who are not familiar with the story this is a simple but classic whodunnit full of mistaken identities.

Original Theatre’s version, co-produced with the Octagon Theatre, Bolton could almost be described as a play within a play however, this is something we’ve all seen before played with a skill far defter than this in shows like Noises off and Mischief Theatres the Goes Wrong Franchise. The small cast of three work extremely hard and although they pack a real punch it is not enough to save this peculiar retelling which is, at best, contrived, panto-esque and incredibly silly. Whilst the show’s writers promise to stay true to the original text this confusing and lackluster “farce” is over-egged and the story leaves the audience asking who’s who rather than whodunit.

The actors tear down the fourth wall and, using plenty of asides and direct address, they play out the drama in true Brechtian style and with much absurdity. Steve Canny and John Nicholson’s bizarre retelling of the classic tale encourages plenty of guffaws from the audience, but it has unfortunately missed the mark. They seem to have sifted through the plot looking for the comedy – perhaps too strong a focus as the story becomes lost in its own action. Flirting with melodrama and parody this zany (almost to the point of obscurity) physical comedy we’ve seen all too often before.

The actors are skilled enough in generating just the right amount of energy for the play and although they are adept in the physical elements they are let down by a poor and meaningless idea. From a directorial point of view there is some commitment to the art form but groan-like gags such as “stay close” and “walk this way” (that old chestnut) are dated. There is even a moment in which two of the characters enter the stage backwards and bump into each other in fright – you get the picture? This work is very old-fashioned, anchored in a style that is riddled with missed opportunity. Costumes flit from period to modern-day and the stark and vastly sparse set gets lost in the grand depth of the main house space. There’s also enough dry ice here to rival an 80’s power ballad.

What promises to be a “brilliant adaptation of the classic Sherlock Holmes story” left this reviewer wondering why the hounds didn’t appear sooner!

Runs until 23rd October

The Reviews Hub Score

Release the Hounds!

The Reviews Hub - Yorkshire & North East

The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Mark Clegg. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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