The Hound of The Baskervilles
Reviewed – 17th September 2019
“one of the finest promenade productions to be seen for some time”
A wonderfully atmospheric and well-adapted new version of the classic The Hound of the Baskervilles proves that there’s no plays like Holmes when it comes to murder mysteries.
“One false step means certain death to man or beast – so tread carefully!” The warning given by one of the characters in the production could hardly be more appropriate for the audience who walk around Abney Park Cemetery as night falls in this clever and engaging promenade version from the 09 Lives company.
Director Lil Warren avoids tiresome clichés (there’s not a deerstalker in sight and no whiff of “Elementary, my dear Watson!”) and creates a thrilling reworking of the 1901 detective story with a freshness and sense of fun which would surely delight Conan Doyle himself.
Such is the ability of the actors that it’s easy to overlook the fact that there are only six of them. In a couple of cases there is a genuine murmur of surprise from the audience when they cotton on to the fact that the performer who disappeared down one twilit track has reappeared in another guise only seconds later.
It’s a good notion to have Conan Doyle (Angus Chisholm) narrate the story in each scene and lead the way in the movement around the park, as it leaves the other actors free to concentrate on the drama without having to worry about promenading practicalities. Chisholm gets the measure of the writer, who had an interest in the magical and mysterious, and there’s a twinkle in his eye when he declares “the game’s afoot!”
Giorgio Galassi is fantastic casting as Holmes, giving the well-known character a completely original take without feeling the need to draw any inspiration from Jeremy Brett, Basil Rathbone, or Benedict Cumberbatch. His is an arrogant and irritating consulting detective showing little patience with his companion and the hint of the actor’s Italian heritage adds a splendid touch of fiery Latin temperament to this most British of fictional creations.
Despite being the most famous – and oft-produced – Sherlock Holmes adventure the sleuth himself vanishes for the central part of the narrative, so Galassi also dons an outrageous moustache to play the Baskerville butler Barrymore.
Holmes’ absence means a lot hangs on Dr Watson and Gary Cain also resists copying others who have played the part of the diarist and companion. Instead we are shown a loyal sidekick who is not treated entirely kindly by his eccentric friend and who has more than a mind of his own.
Dan de la Motte is a suitably stiff upper lipped Mortimer but has some fun with the devious naturalist Stapleton who hides his own family secrets, while Andrew Phipps is a jovial Sir Henry Baskerville, whose family appears to be cursed by the legend of the diabolical hound.
Playing the two female roles is Sarah Warren – founder and artistic director of 09 Lives – who gives some welcome feminine strength to the feisty Beryl Stapleton and a sense of duty to the unfortunate Mrs Barrymore.
The piece is completed by its creepy sound design (Yvonne Gilbert), with a convincing hound occasionally heard howling in the trees and SLAY’s installation design, which allows us to be transported effortlessly from Baker Street to Baskerville Hall, Merripit House, Grimpen Mire and other locations in the Dartmoor setting, with each location perfectly chosen. We even glimpse two fierce red eyes of the hound peering through a Devon fog.
This Hound of the Baskervilles is a well-produced treat and is certainly one of the finest promenade productions to be seen for some time.
Reviewed by David Guest
Photography by Terrill
The Hound of The Baskervilles
Abney Park until 29th September