THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
12/04/2014 - 17/05/2014
The Hound of the Baskervilles
Funny accents, crazy costumes, unruly props and uncontrollable actors: The Hound of the Baskervilles at The Court Theatre is a show where laughing out loud is unavoidable.
It’s a spook ridden uproarious version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s spine tingling thriller which gives the detection classic wondrously inventive and hilarious twists.
Sherlock Holmes, the greatest detective of all time, and his floundering friend Watson hunt down the bayings of the legendary Hound of the Baskervilles. The protagonists stray liberally into absurdly daft scenarios, delivered with an abundance of verbal innuendo, which will have the audience wiping tears of laughter from their eyes.
Killed off by his creator eight years previously, Sherlock Holmes was resurrected by Conan Doyle in 1901 especially for The Hound of the Baskervilles. The same year it was serialised in Strand Magazine. Since then, the story of The Hound of the Baskervilles has never been out of print, making it one of the most popular English classics of its type.
Only one week into rehearsals at The Court The Hound claimed another victim when Ross Gumbley, who was set to play Dr Watson, was injured during rehearsals. Veteran actor Steven Papps came to the rescue, taking on the role of Holmes’ trusty side-kick John Watson.
Philip Aldridge has been unleashed from his role as Court Theatre Chief Executive and makes the English accent his own in the roles of Sir Charles and Sir Henry Baskerville, and a couple of Devonshire yokels.
Greg Cooper, memorable for his standout performance as Lorde with the Outwits in Summertimes New Zealand Rocks! brings those same talents to his roles as the gender-bending butler Barrymore, the Stapletons, and the legendary Sherlock Holmes.
Hagley Park may be no match for the murk and mire of a bleak English moor. And Addington Jailhouse is no Dartmoor Prison. Yet Christchurch’s Court Theatre has become the new home of the The Hound of the Baskervilles.
At The Court Theatre
12 April – 17 May 2014
Show Times: 6:30pm Mon & Thu; 7:30pm Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat; 2:00pm Matinée Saturday 10 May. Tickets $55-$21
Book at www.courttheatre.org.nz
Stephen Papps: Dr. Watson;
Philip Aldridge: Sir Charles Baskerville, Sir Henry Baskerville, Mortimer, et al;
Gregory Cooper: Sherlock Holmes, Stapleton, Mr Barrymore, Mrs Barrymore, et al.
Director: Melanie Camp;
Set Design: Julian Southgate;
Costume Design: Emily Thomas;
Lighting Design: Giles Tanner;
Sound Design: Peter Booth;
Properties: Anneke Bester;
Stage Manager: Jo Bunce;
Assistant Stage Manager: Lydia Foate;
Lighting and Sound Operator: Sean Hawkins;
Wardrobe Manager: Sarah Douglas;
Workshop Manager: Nigel Kerr;
Production Manager: Mandy Perry.
Complexity handled with charm
Review by Lindsay Clark 13th Apr 2014
Unlike most modernised versions of the famous detective’s adventures, this account of Sherlock Holmes and his loyal offsider Dr Watson bypasses the gothic horror of the original, presenting the story as a merry spoof.
Sherlock and Watson are fetched in to investigate the curse plaguing the Baskerville family, whose estate lies in the remote wilderness of Dartmoor. Here amidst perilous bogs and in the hunting ground of a monstrous spectral hound, the Baskerville family lives out the punishment of a forbear who hunted a hapless maiden across the same moor. It seems. Enter Sherlock, sleuth unparalleled, and a dastardly plot is unpicked.
The novel was published as a serialised account in 1901 with all of the regular dramatic high points that implies. This version hurtles along with outrageous relish, relying on each production component to create a marvellous romp through the familiar plot.
Melanie Camp’s direction keeps plot and execution nicely balanced. A critical factor, and one she stresses in her programme notes, is the positioning of the audience. The fourth wall convention is well and truly disestablished as we are addressed, admonished and engaged. The response to a twitter about pace sees the whole of the first half replayed at reckless speed to open the second half, to the delight of a thoroughly charmed audience.
It all starts with the promising grandiloquence of Julian Southgate’s Victorian mock proscenium arch and the swishing purple and gold curtains. Fireplaces, a railway carriage and even a steaming bath house are accomplished with huge dash and in splendid collaboration with Giles Tanner’s lighting design and Peter Booth’s atmospheric work with sound. Visual gags, including deadly quicksands are great fun. Then there are the repeated motifs of frames used for various comic purposes and dummy characters which can be treated with even more abandon than their human counterparts.
The ingenuity of all this extends to costume. Emily Thomas is responsible for a range of English turn-of-the-century gear which imprints the stereotype but endows it with individual flair and most importantly allows lighting changes for the cast of three which covers multiple roles.
It is the challenges so gleefully met by the actors which cement our attention and approval. The gallery of portraits in the centrefold of the excellent programme shows sixteen characters. Each actor has his anchor role and the hectic business of carrying the story forward through the rest.
As Dr John Watson and a yokel, Stephen Papps plays up the earnest, conservative foil with great zest. Watson’s lanky frame is rigid with polite self-discipline, which makes the various physical contortions he faces even funnier.
Gregory Cooper, whose comedic flair has lit many a stage at The Court, gives us a deliciously eccentric Sherlock, as well as furnishing the villainous Stapleton, his ravishing sister Cecille, servants Mr and Mrs Barrymore, all topped off by a yokel and a guard. Phew.
For accomplished Philip Aldridge, CEO of The Court and a favourite on its stage, the role of Sir Henry Baskerville is a gift. Quintessentially affable and English, he must morph into the forbear Sir Charles Baskerville as well as Scottish Dr Mortimer, a cabbie and no fewer than three separate yokels, each – he assures us at the outset – given sensitive definition. The results are very funny.
Elementary it isn’t, but the complexity of the whole caboodle is handled with such charm that the impossible, just as Sherlock claimed, can really happen, at least in the cause of laughter.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer