THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Theatre at Baddow
I was only aware of one stage version – a 39-Steps-style spoof of a few years back – so was intrigued to see how American playwright Tim Kelly handled this most popular of the Sherlock Holmes novels back in the 70s.
Turns out to be Conan Doyle as re-imagined by Agatha Christie. Wisely, the hound himself is audio only, the moor glimpsed by lightning flashes through the french doors. The action is confined to the sitting room of Baskerville Hall, dominated by a huge portrait of the ill-fated Sir Hugo.
The familiar characters [less Lestrade] come in and out, leaving clues and question-marks behind them. There are six scenes, most of them ending with a melodramatic curtain line and mysterious music.
Dave Hawkes' hyperactive Holmes – crawling under the desk, jabbing at the forehead of Bob Ryall's dapper Doctor Watson – is an impressive “calculating machine”, excitedly piecing together the evidence. And of course he's kitted out with hand lens, deerstalker, inverness and calabash.
Very encouraging to see such good work from the younger cast members: Laura Bradley as the elegant “Miss” Stapleton, Jade Flack as Mrs Lyons, and Bruce Thomson as Sir Henry, resplendent in plus fours.
The plot, devoid of the atmospheric Great Grimpen Mire, sometimes seems preposterous, but the lighting [gas lamps fading convincingly] and the lively pace of John Mabey's production keep the spirit of the original serial alive.