Saturday, 7 April 2012

The Hound of the Baskervilles – Haymarket Theatre, Basingstoke, 28th March 2012. An Oldham Coliseum and IMITATING THE DOG production.

It appears that we now find ourselves in the middle of a Sherlock Holmes revival with two recent Hollywood ‘blockbusters’, an acclaimed  television series and most interestingly, Anthony Horovitz’s novel ‘The House of Silk’. Undeniably, these and many others have taken liberties over the years with Doyle’s original but they certainly endure, entertain and can still pull in an audience.

This current adaptation of Conan Doyle’s 1901 novel The Hound of the Baskervilles by Clive Francis turns out to be remarkably faithful to the original to the extent of omitting Holmes for much of the narrative. Don’t forget that Holmes had been dramatically ‘killed’ in 1893’s The Final Problem as a result of Conan Doyle’s personal displeasure so may explain his absence in this tale.

So we see very little of Gwynfor Jones’ sullen Holmes but a lot more of Doctor Watson. It however shows a flaw in the writing/acting as Watson comes across in this relationship, not as an exasperated friend and emotional prop to Holmes but more as a servant at his disposal. In the original stories, this was never the case. Moreover, while we are at it – please ditch Holmes in a deerstalker – it never happened.

As the reliable narrator, Leigh Symonds’ Doctor Watson takes centre stage, aided by Amy Embank, Steven O’Neill and Robert Simpson, and drives the plot against the rather stunning effects of film and projection. Conceived by Theatre Company IMITATING THE DOG these visuals however, ‘stunning’ could so easily be an example of ‘form over content’.

However it’s good to say that this twenty-first equivalent of ‘smoke and mirrors’ did not entirely overpower the five actors.  Moving smoothly and with conviction between IMD’s interior and exterior worlds of smoggy London, 221b Baker Street, Baskerville Hall and, most eerily, ‘Grimpen Mire’ they  attempted to realise Director Kevin Shaw’s aim of combining ‘the power of live performance’ and ‘revolutionary theatrical techniques’.

Whether it fully achieved this aim is debatable. However, it is early days on the tour and I believe the odd inconsistency will dissolve away and the actors and the narrative flow will become greater than the technical wizardry that often dominated this performance. 

An edited version appeared in The Newbury Weekly News, April 5th 2012.

No comments:

Post a Comment