Review: The Hound Of The Baskervilles
The Hound Of The Baskervilles
A review by Jenny Booth: The Hound Of The Baskervilles. “A beautifully silly antidote to a mad world”
IMAGE CREDIT: Pamela Raith
The Hound of the Baskervilles is a haunting fable of a spectral beast that prowls the mist-shrouded tors and quaking bogs at the heart of Dartmoor, seeking out the male heirs of the Baskerville family to destroy. When the legend comes to life and the Baskervilles start to die, only Sherlock Holmes can solve the mystery. Steve Canny and John Nicholson who wrote this irreverent stage version clearly love Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s story, because they reproduce every character and scene with a faithfulness that ought to delight Holmes purists.
That said, this production is a spoof: a comic, revue-style version of the story. Just three actors play all the parts and the action rattles along at breakneck speed with minimal props, a few sound effects and a spooky backdrop. The cast gleefully compete to do the thickest yokel accent or the most outrageous piece of mime.
Taking knowingness a step further, the actors breach the theatrical “fourth wall” and roll their eyes at or even talk to the audience. In effect, they are playing themselves being actors, while infusing their actor persona with some of the traits of their main character part. So Niall Ransome acts a slow-thinking, literal-minded actor playing an unusually dim Dr Watson; Serena Manteghi plays a hyper-animated and bouncy actress and a boosterish Sir Henry Baskerville. Jake Ferretti is so arrogant and demanding both in and out of role as Sherlock that he even takes the audience hostage at the start of the second act, insisting that the show starts again from the beginning in revenge for a supposed negative tweet sent by an audience member about his performance. The result is one of the funniest sequences in the play, as Act 1 is squashed into five minutes of frantic mime and frenzied costume changes, with Ferretti playing most of the parts and all the female roles.
This ploy of actors commenting on their own performance has a long comical tradition, from Shakespeare’s rude mechanicals to The Play That Goes Wrong. When it is done right it is hilarious, and sure enough, once you start to see the funny side of this show, it is hard to stop laughing. Lotte Wakeham’s skilful revival for Original Theatre Company of Peepolykus’s 2007 production is a beautifully silly antidote to a mad world.
The Hound Of The Baskervilles runs at the Richmond Theatre from 2 November 6 November.