Beware the Hound of the Baskervilles!
This is Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles as you’ve never seen it before! Northern Stage takes on one of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson’s most famous cases, in a whistle stop contemporary adaptation.
Sterling performances, inventive sound and staging bring the story of the the legend of a supernatural hound to life in a studio setting.
I wasn’t very familiar with the story, and it is quite complicated! The small versatile cast have the job of packing in every twist and turn through playing lots of different characters.
A mysterious beast may be stalking a young heir on the fog-shrouded moorland surrounding his estate.
The Hound of the Baskervilles – Holmes and Watson
Holmes is approached by Dr. Mortimer to assist in protecting the life of his best friend’s nephew who is that very day returning to England from Canada. Mortimer’s friend, Sir Charles Baskerville, recently died and, although the coroner ruled it to be a natural death, the Doctor knows he was being chased by a legendary dog, the Hound of the Baskervilles, that has plagued the Baskerville family for years.
Sir Henry Baskerville is Sir Charles’ heir and Mortimer is convinced that he will not last long living at Baskerville Hall. Already Sir Henry is facing odd happenings when a single boot is stolen at his hotel. Holmes dispatches his good friend Dr. Watson to accompany the young man to the family estate while he attends to other matters in London. Once there, Sir Henry meets the lovely Miss Stapleton and her butterfly collecting brother, John. They are not what they seem.
The servants are acting strangely and, when Watson catches one of them signaling to someone on the moor, he thinks he knows who might be involved. Holmes, who has been lurking incognito on the moors, has his own ideas, however. The solution to the mystery lies in the Baskerville family history.
Hound of the Baskervilles – Dr Watson’s dilemma
Jake Wilson is Dr Watson, and the only member of the cast who doesn’t play lots of characters. His impeccable portrayal really grew on me – an excellent performance. At first he seemed only to be Holmes more pedantic foil, but he gradually comes into his own. His own journey leads him to become tortured by his inability to unravel the mystery of the murder alone, as he cries out for Holmes to help him.
Rebecca Tebbet was also excellent bringing to life a cast of characters which she played with assurance. She was particularly compelling as the young Sir Henry, in a fine set of tweeds!
James Gladdon was channelling the next incarnation of Dr Who as the mercurial Holmes (among other things.) Siobahn Stanley brings energy and presence to a series of rather domineering ladies.
I really liked the costumes which were very authentic (I love a flannel dressing gown) and the sound was atmospheric too. Lots of smoke created the mist on the moor. The smoke from Holme’s pipe blows symbolically into the model of Baskerville Hall – an effective touch.
Hound of the Baskervilles – a Victorian melodrama
The hound itself was, I confess, a bit of a let down. It was a bit of a Blue Peter mask with red eyes pushed through a stretchy backdrop.. I can’t help thinking that the suggestion of shadows or a massive silhouette might have been more effective.
The Hound of the Baskervilles contains so many classic Victorian themes. Their obsession with the supernatural and spirituality is seen in much of the literature of the time. The preoccupations of class and family and inheritance as well as the subservient role of women are also prominent.
I liked a lot about this production. It is an ambitious attempt to tackle a complicated wordy plot, in an engaging, accessible way. There is quite a bit of humour, interesting characters and all delivered at a cracking pace.
The Hound of the Baskervilles is definitely worth seeing – but don’t expect to see a scary ‘Mastiff Cross from Hackney’ making any sort appearance.
Tickets for Newcastle performances from Northern Stage.