The Hound of the Baskervilles
Paul Johnson | 08 Jun 2012 15:46pm
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s bleak gothic tale spins murder, intrigue and fast pacing together to create a story that keeps you guessing and leaves you with a chill down the spine. Tim Kelly’s stage version of Doyle’s story retains the story, the characters and the perfect pairing of Holmes and Watson, but loses some of the pace and the chill. While I appreciate it is difficult to fully encompass the vast spread of the story in a stage play without losing something along the line, with Kelly’s script its momentum is slow to work up and then when it does it feels like it moves too fast. With these issues in mind, how did Green Theatre Company and Maria Clinton (the director) fair? Their Hound never felt slow, never felt laboured and never felt rushed. With this production they prove their magic and storytelling prowess extends beyond the walls of their previous home, the Barton Green Theatre. The CBS series Elementary, currently in production in America has made (aside from setting our intrepid pair in the present day a la BBC’s Sherlock) a controversial decision with regard to casting. Maria Clinton has taken the bold move and has made the same decision. That is not to say she has lifted their concept, not at all. Her Holmes and Watson are very firmly established in the period we would expect, but it is Watson’s gender that is different. The purist in me really doesn’t want to accept the idea of a female Watson, however Dan Clinton’s Holmes and Emma Sullivan’s Watson were addictive viewing. Their interactions and relations with each other and indeed the other characters proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the director had made an excellent decision casting the pair of them and in pushing her concept through. Dan Clinton’s Holmes exuded the arrogance and self-assuredness we have come to expect of the character and we felt safe in his hands when he was on stage, certain he was several steps ahead of us and wouldn’t let anything happen to us or Watson. Emma Sullivan’s Watson is a true triumph and she deserves special mention. Note perfect in her performance, she took a role that in the hands of some actors could be somewhat over played and near farcical and brought real heart and drama to it. The line in the text where Watson describes the hound as not being of this Earth but being “a Hound of Hell” was played with a truth that was touching. The relationship between Holmes and Watson became almost that of a long suffering husband and wife; Watson’s gentle comedic nudges becoming affectionate nagging. Interestingly, the relationship between Watson and Lady Agatha Mortimer, to this reviewer at least, becomes a touch more believable with Watson being a female Doctor. Lady Agatha (elegantly played by Eileen Skopnik) has the thankless task of bringing us up to speed and in some ways carrying us through the story. Watson investigates, Holmes confirms or denies the details and Lady Agatha fleshes out the details. At times, in a script like this, where details and facts hit the audience thick and fast, Eileen could have afforded to slow down her delivery a touch to allow us to breath between plot points, however her heart and her genuine sense of fear conveyed that which we may have missed. Those playing the staff of Baskerville Hall were a delight to watch. Kat Field and Tom Twinn as Mrs and Mr Barrymore brought a nicely sinister quality to their roles as housekeepers with secrets, but we really warmed and sympathised with them. The way they conveyed the suffering that has followed them made us grow to like them. We felt that what they did was the right thing to do. As for Nicole Young’s Perkins, she brought a warmth and brightness to the show we needed. Her eagerness to please as Perkins was a refreshing touch. We as an audience looked forward to the next bit of news she would impart. Here’s to more in the future from her. Alex Pearce’s Sir Henry lacked enough American in his timbre and accent to warrant Holmes’ comment on it, but the sense of a world spiralling out of his control and his wanting to stamp authority over his household in his performance made him one to watch. The scene where The Barrymore’s have left the Hall, Perkins has gone home, Holmes and Watson are out on Grimpen Mire and he needs help was nicely touching. There is a quality about Pearce’s performing that makes him charming and makes us empathise towards him. There are a couple of thankless roles in this show. Special mention goes to the actor playing Seldon, the Notting Hill murderer: a total stage time of approximately 5 seconds. The other is Laura Lyons, only on stage for parts of Act 2. Livi Pilling stepped into the role ably and carried us through the plot details that were lacking from Lady Agatha’s testimony. The role requires someone who we haven’t seen before to step in and bring us up to speed. We are automatically suspicious of them as we have spent nearly an hour familiarising ourselves with the characters and the plot, so to have someone new emerge and make us listen to what they’re saying isn’t easy, but Pilling managed it. Also inhabiting the Moor are The Stapletons. Jack (Michael Skellern) and Kathy (Katie Anderson) brought two varied performances to their paring. Skellern’s quick to anger but earnest eagerness was endearing and made us wish that Kelly had written more for Jack to do. We find ourselves wanting to see more of him and indeed his Butterfly collection. Anderson’s aloofness and her ability to twist Sir Henry around her little finger immediately sets our hackles rising but makes more sense of the denouement. At times it felt a little like she wasn’t wholly comfortable with the poise and vocal clarity the part requires but she soon found her rhythm and was engaging and imposing. Many productions depict Kathy as a simpering woman under Sir Henry’s affections, so the reveal comes as a big shock and to a degree loses some of its plausibility. But with Anderson’s somewhat cagey performance we could believe the ending far more, despite my disappointment that Kelly has changed the ending to the original novel. Granted it does make for a more interesting turn of events, but there is less plot logic for it. Green Theatre Company will be reviving their production of I Hate Hamlet by Paul Rudnick as part of IYAF 2012 at the Arthur Cotterell Theatre, Kingston on the 20th and 21st of July 2012. Tickets range between £5 and £8. Auditions at The CornerHOUSE, Surbiton take place on the 12th August 2012 for their next production, Antigone by Jean Anouilh (translated by Lewis Galantiere).
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- : 31/05/2012