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Hound Of The Baskervilles Review

The Hound Of The Baskervilles at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield

Published on March 15th 2012.


Hound Of The Baskervilles Review

WHILE THE Oldham Coliseum building is closed for a season to get a thorough sprucing up, the theatre company have opted to get themselves 'out and about'.

Recent productions have taken place at nearby Oldham College and at the Grange Theatre, but this marks the start of an entirely more ambitious, multi-venue, cross-country tour that will take the company to such exotic climes as Bury St Edmunds from now until mid-May.

This production sustains the right note throughout. It's also notable for the impressive way in which Imitating The Dog's superb digital design seamlessly pushes the action from location to location without overwhelming the actors

 

This production is a smart calling card combining a well-known property with solid theatrical values and some excitingly cutting edge storytelling techniques, courtesy of digital design specialists Imitating The Dog.

Leigh Symonds %28Doctor Watson%29 And Amy Ewbank %28Beryl Stapleton%29Leigh Symonds as Doctor Watson and Amy Ewbank as Beryl Stapleton

The master sleuth (eh, there's only one Sleuth on Confidential surely?) Sherlock Holmes and his faithful sidekick Watson have, of course, been a part of the public consciousness for years, portrayed, mocked or parodied in countless plays, films, games, ads, musicals and in practically any other medium you can imagine, most recently on BBC TV with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman and on film by Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law.

Probably their most famous adventure is The Hound Of The Baskervilles, which first appeared nearly eight years after Conan Doyle had killed off his hero. It is, as the adapter Clive Francis freely admits, "such a famous title, so gloriously dramatic and Conan Doyle's narrative so theatrical that most of my work had already been done for me. Basically, it was just a matter of cutting the book down to a manageable size, allowing the story to gather momentum at a goodly pace until its final 'blood chilling' climax."

Oh, and it's also genuinely good fun, and there's never anything wrong with that. 

For obvious reasons, I shan't bother to summarise the story but Francis' description pretty much sums up the narrative approach. What it doesn't point up is the flashes of humour that crop up and the skill required of the actors and of director Kevin Shaw to pitch it all at just the right level.

When the world famous detective, played here by Gwynfor Jones, pompously tells Leigh Symonds' long-suffering Watson that "it may not be that you are not yourself luminous but you are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it", it shouldn't be laugh-out-loud funny but a seriously funny demonstration of their relationship.

This production sustains the right note throughout. It's also notable for the impressive way in which Imitating The Dog's superb digital design seamlessly pushes the action from location to location without overwhelming the actors, three of whom (Amy Ewbank, Steven O'Neill and Robin Simpson) have to multi-task as several characters, as is the way in regional rep theatres.

There is one, forgivable, instance of serious techno showing off, involving a billiard game, but this is mostly an object lesson in how digital technology really can enhance a modern theatrical production. Oh, and it's also genuinely good fun, and there's never anything wrong with that. 

The Hound of the Baskervilles is at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield, until March 17,Tickets can be booked on 0161 624 2829 or online at www.coliseum.org.uk, then at various venues until May 19, including The Dukes, Lancaster (April 17-21) and Buxton Opera House (May 17-19).

Gwynfor Jones %28Sherlock Holmes%29 And Leigh Symonds %28Doctor Watson%29

Gwynfor Jones as Sherlock Holmes and Leigh Symonds as Doctor Watson

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