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Review: Hound of the Baskervilles

Lancaster theatre company, IMITATING THE DOG, in The Hound of the Baskervilles

Lancaster theatre company, IMITATING THE DOG, in The Hound of the Baskervilles

PRODUCING a stage version of a Sherlock Holmes story when the character is enjoying a revival in popularity is either very clever, or very stupid.

PRODUCING a stage version of a Sherlock Holmes story when the character is enjoying a revival in popularity is either very clever, or very stupid.

Having been so successfully recreated in the BBC drama Sherlock, theatre companies no doubt think they will have a ready-made audience for Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle’s work.

However, the obvious disadvantage is that any stage production will automatically draw comparison with the highly praised television version and the enigmatic Benedict Cumberbatch.

The production of Hound of the Baskervilles by Oldham Coliseum Theatre and Imitating the Dog has a lot of the magic of the BBC adaptation, particularly in its very clever use of digital projection around the stage. The backdrop remains the same throughout: a simple wall with various sections opening to create doorways and frames of different sizes.

But its simplicity is its greatest strength, because the plain wall is used as a screen for all sorts of images. It is transformed from the outside of 221b Baker Street, with dark brickwork and narrow windows, to the platform of a railway station, to the inside of a carriage complete with moving countryside outside and even the interior of a country manor house with portraits of the Baskerville family in the background.

Even during scenes, the projector is used more interactively by showing details from newspapers, giving a view of a map which Holmes is reading and even becoming a pool table – although the one disadvantage of the projector is the loud noise it makes, sometimes drowning out the dialogue for those nearby.

With just five people taking all of the roles, it is slickly put together and provides some very humorous moments.

Dr Watson, played by Leigh Symonds, appeared in almost every scene and provided the narrative which tied it all together. Taking three major roles, Steven O’Neill was perhaps the strongest actor, managing to convince the audience he was three different people with just minor costume and accent changes.

Gwynfor Jones’s Sherlock was going well until the interval, when somebody pointed out how much he reminded them of Hugh Laurie in Blackadder. After that, any illusion that he was the famous detective sadly disappeared completely for me.

But for those impressed with the slick production and use of technology in the BBC version, Hound of the Baskervilles is worth watching. The actors and the story almost take second place, but that does not seem unwelcome when the production is so clever and beautifully executed.

Hound of the Baskervilles runs at Harrogate Theatre until Saturday, April 28. For tickets, visit the Harrogate Theatre website.

 

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