Venue: The Green Room Studio Theatre, rear of Dorking Halls, Reigate Rd, Dorking, Surrey
Credits: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Adapted by Robert Hamilton. A DDOS production for the Arts Alive Festival 2014
Author: Bradley Barlow
Performance Date: 21/10/2014
The Hound of the Baskervilles
Bradley Barlow | 22 Oct 2014 17:38pm
The cases of Sherlock Holmes have been thrilling audiences of literature, and their stage and screen adaptations, for over 125 years. Arguably one of the most popular and well-known of these tales is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, given a new lease of life in Bob Hamilton’s adaptation for Dorking Dramatic and Operatic Society.
Set predominately on the brooding hillsides of Dartmoor, the play tells the story of a legendary supernatural hound that has haunted the Baskerville family for generations and is believed to be the cause of death for Sir Charles Baskerville. The case is brought to the attention of Holmes and Watson by Dr Mortimer who fears for the life of Sir Henry Baskerville, the only known heir to Baskerville Hall.
It was quickly apparent that this adaptation was a labour of love for Bob Hamilton, who notes in the programme that he first read the book as a teenager. As Dr John Watson, it was Hamilton that was the primary focus for the play and he brought a wealth of subtlety, humour and presence to the role – a truly excellent performance through and through. Don Brown as Sherlock Holmes gave a solid performance – his height on stage certainly assisted when it came to him to take charge of situations of peril. There were a few stumbles over words during his notorious deductions, something that I hope can be ascribed to opening night nerves – but this shouldn’t detract from a strong interpretation of the character.
Michael J Leopold as Sir Henry Baskerville brought the right balance of fear and resolve to the young heir, returning to England from Canada to seek his inheritance with a very convincing accent. As Sir Henry’s ally Dr Mortimer, Michael May gave a spritely performance. In fact the cast overall delivered some great performances, especially when it came to supporting cast providing ensemble roles. I particularly enjoyed the versatile performance of Linda McMahon who delivered three individually distinctive characters, especially as Mrs Mortimer channelling the spirit of Sir Charles Baskerville. McMahon commanded the stage in this séance scene assisted brilliantly by the breathing soundscape delivered by the rest of the cast. Brian Inns as Giles Franklin injected Act Two with energy following his short-lived appearance at the start as Sir Charles. Sophie Toyer deserves special mention too for her striking performance as Beryl Stapleton. Rounding out the cast, Terence Mayne as Mr Barrymore, Olly Reeves as Jack Stapleton and Victoria Brooks as Laura Lyons all delivered fine performances.
Director Sandra Grant showed promising signs of creativity with this production, very ably assisted by the talented technical direction of Stuart Yeatman. A particular highlight was the cast holding picture frames as if paintings of the Baskerville dynasty in the great hall, almost evoking the magical portraits of the Harry Potter franchise. There was a simple beauty in the ensemble holding black sticks with fluttering butterflies surrounding Jack Stapleton. Movement Director Tracy Bargate worked wonders with the cast on some very strong visual moments, with a rocking train carriage and Sir Charles running for his life particularly memorable.
The set was starkly simple – a silhouette of the moors covering the entire upstage provided a constant reminder of their bleak existence, with only white gauze behind it. This was particularly effective in certain lights when the stage filled with fog. The gauze was used to great effect on many occasions – the projection of a full moon shining brightly over the stage, the occasional glimpse of text being read as part of Holmes’s deductions. We were treated very early on to shadow puppetry to recall the legend of the hound but unfortunately this was to be their only appearance, a missed opportunity to use the device considering the scale of the moors dominating the stage. Similarly, we only had two very short appearances of the eponymous Hound, a fantastically designed puppet operated by Edd Mott with members of the cast. I am not suggesting that we needed to see more of the hound but it did feel a shame not to have had more time with it.
The second act felt a little too long, with some scenes repeating previously heard information. However, Hamilton’s work as a writer should not be underestimated as he has delivered a very fine adaptation of this classic story. With some wonderful performances, The Hound of the Baskervilles is a visual delight and very much worth catching before the run ends on 25th October.
- : admin
- : 21/10/2014