York Theatre Royal
Till Sat Aug 27 @ 7pm (Tues, Thurs to Sat) 2.30pm (Weds, Thurs to Sat)
Mr Henry Dimmell and Mrs Rose Dimmell’s World Renowned Victorian Travelling Theatre Company presents a new drama, The Hound of the Baskervilles, by that renowned author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle!
Thrill to the danger of the moors! Sigh for the separated lovers! Marvel at Butterfly Beryl and her airborne cello!
This is the funniest version of The Hound of the Baskervilles you will ever have seen. An insanely talented and experienced cast of six presents it in the style of a Victorian melodrama which, let’s face it, is pretty close to the truth – using shadow puppets, songs, dance, tongue-twisting lines, and a lot of visual humour.
Only one of the six (Elexi Walker) has the luxury of remaining the same character throughout. She sports an impressive moustache, as a surprisingly warm and nuanced Dr John Watson.
The rest cycle through an eye-watering total of different parts, demanding a number of quick costume changes.
Everyone’s favourite panto villain, David Leonard, is an immaculate Sherlock Holmes. He absolutely looks and sounds the part – so much so that I got quite a shock when I realised he was also playing Baskerville Hall’s Lurchlike butler, Mr Barrymore.
Rob Castell not only wrote the music and songs for the show, but also plays piano and cymbal in the pit, in between bounding on stage as an energetic and engaging Sir Henry Baskerville, complete with Canadian accent.
Ed Thorpe tackles Dr Mortimer, Mr Stapleton and Mr Frankland with ease, as well as playing accordion and trumpet.
Rachel Dawson creates two entirely different characters in Beryl Stapleton and Laura Lyons, and plays cello with great skill and aplomb even when suspended in midair.
Urchins and peasants
But the audience favourite, and comic star of the show, is without doubt Joanna Holden. She not only creates Mrs Hudson, Mrs Barrymore and what the programme describes as “assorted urchins and mangled peasants”, but leads us through the story with chapter headings of increasing unlikeliness.
As Mrs Hudson, she pops up offering tea more determinedly than Mrs Doyle in Father Ted. She plays the spoons, produces all manner of over-the-top accents, can reduce the audience to helpless laughter with a look.
And her tango with David Leonard, who seems to be twice her height, is an absolute joy.
Dramaturg Richard Hurford has created a storyline to the show which is the closest to the original story that I have seen in a long time. Damian Cruden’s direction is, as always, superb, and Mark Walters’ extraordinary set is not only versatile, but beautiful.
If you have seen the posters and thought, “Oh, not The Hound of the Baskervilles again,” then take my advice and give it a chance.
This may not be Jeremy Clyde’s Holmes. It certainly isn’t Benedict Cumberbatch’s. But it is a rollicking evening of fun and invention. You won’t regret buying those tickets.