hound cast

Niall Ransome as Watson, Jake Ferretti as Holmes and Serena Manteghi as Sir Henry. Pictures: Pamela Raith

The Hound of The Baskervilles

Original Theatre Online


Perhaps when the eminent Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did the first daft, sorry, draft of The Hound of the Baskervilles, it was after a rather heavy night at The Volunteer, the local hostelry just a few doors along Baker Street from 221b.

Whatever, who knows, but luckily the Original Theatre company has found a copy and present it in this online version of the tale of terror, high speed costume changes, lambs in bags and yokels with the speed of thought of an intellectually challenged house brick.

The performance was filmed back in February on stage at Coventry Belgrade, where our reviewer gave it four stars and enjoyed it immensely. The live staging is a departure from recent Original productions such as the brilliant and moving Into The Night, about the Penlee lifeboat disaster, (available until 31 August) or Marcus Brigstocke’s semi-autobiographical and touching drama, The Red (last chance - to 16 June)

These were made not as filming a theatrical performance but as filmed theatre, the art of stagecraft portrayed on screen. The TV set becomes your own personal black box studio setting.

The hound is a filmed stage production which gives a different dynamic, with a live audience who, in this case, said our reviewer, were largely masked, which hardly helps volume, and, being unmiked, were only heard in the background, which was a pity, because this is a very funny play, cleverly adapted by Steven Canny and John Nicholson for Peepolykus, and the impression of muted audience response is underserved.

holmes and watson

Holmes and Watson, beating about the bush

It all starts with a death on Dartmoor, as the weak hearts of the Baskervilles strikes again and sees Sir Charles (Serena Manteghi) no more on the moor, so to speak.

The cast then warn us of the terrors to come, to allow anyone of a nervous disposition, or anyone who presumable doesn't like laughing, to leave, amid the laughs, and so on we go, which brings the next in line, Sir Henry (also Serena – there is a lot of that in this play) from Canada to claim the title and Baskerville Hall – sadly Canadian is one accent Serena can’t manage.

Sherlock Holmes (Jake Ferretti) and Dr Watson (Niall Ransome) are engaged by a person or persons unknown to keep Sir Henry alive, against all the odds it seems, with a giant man eating, or at least frightening man to death dog to contend with along with man eating bogs and man enveloping mists, all adding an element of terror to the laughs, sorry, task.

We have a mysterious man with a beard, (could have been Jake except he was Holmes at the time), a taxi driver (Serena), yokels (Serena and Niall), the mysterious Stapleton with crutch, eye patch and butterfly net, dressed as if for Henley (Jake . . . as Stapleton, not Henley) and Cecile, his flamboyant Peruvian sister in full flamenco dress (Jake again) – his/her Paso Doble with Sir Henry as good a reason as any to keep them both strictly away from Strictly.

Then at Baskerville Hall we find the old retainers, Mr and Mrs Barrymore (Jake, and . . . er, Jake) and out on the moor an escaped convict played by some old clothes and a bit of stuffing to take us to the interval.

A complaint on Twitter means that the first act is repeated, at high speed, couple of minutes or so, more as punishment for the complainant, but funny all the same for the rest of us before we head back to the script, a few insults, a dinner invitation a lot of shooting and Stapleton eaten by a bog, and we find Holmes is outwitted by Watson, who solves the case – the end. Which then means all 69 characters, or however many there were, can take a bow. It's a brilliant cast displaying immaculate timing and an intimate relationship with good, old-fashioned daftness.

There is clever use of simple props from an upright bed to a posh desk come train seats come taxi, a picture frame, come window, a roll on door and roll on fireplace and a bush hiding a bog - all to a backdrop of the spooky hall with plenty of smoke machines to give us the bleak, mist covered moor, with directors Lotte Wakeham and Tim Jackson keeping up a cracking pace - except for the glacial paced wit of the yokels . . .

If you are looking for a laugh, something different, clever and funny, live theatre without leaving your seat, then this is for you. You can even eat crisps, or unwrap noisy sweets without annoying people, you can talk and look at your phone, no one cares, and ladies don't even have queue for the toilet! Its all there for you in your own personal theatre and its available online to 31 July, priced at £18.

Roger Clarke


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