The Hound of the Baskervilles is probably Conan Doyle’s most famous Sherlock Holmes story. This play attempts to give it a treatment somewhere between the recent adaptation of The 39 Steps and The Reduced Shakespeare Company’s version of The Complete Works of Shakespeare: very tongue-in-cheek and all parts performed by a limited number of actors – in this case three.
But those two plays took very different approaches which worked well with their subject matter. By trying to combine both styles, this one succeeds in achieving neither. The minimal set and the lighting were very good and atmospheric, the cast were loud and clear and there were even a few moments that were funny, but after that it becomes difficult to say much for this production.
There was little feeling of suspense or terror at what should be rather a scary story, even if played for laughs. The cast appeared to be racing through their lines without spending the time to develop characters or suspense, whereas a few meaningful pauses and expressions and a bit more time spent developing ‘business’ could have made such a difference. It’s as though the cast didn’t believe in what they were doing and they and the director felt that the script was funny enough to be practically read out to the audience.
There were some bright spots, such as Marc Alden Taylor’s frantic panicked charge round the auditorium at the start, the sleight of hand (or leg) where Marc manages to lose his trousers while seemingly in plain view, Marc and Alec Brown sinking into the mire, and Mike Tildesley’s many quick changes. But not enough to save the production from being rather dull overall. One example of lack of attention is perhaps a joke at the start of the second act that relied on the Sherlock character having spoken with a Spanish accent throughout, but Mike only used the Spanish accent when playing Javier the actor and not as Sherlock Holmes.
A shame really as I think that a bit more work could have given it the spark to make a good night’s entertainment. As it is, it felt like a wasted evening.