THE evening drizzle set the scene of Dartmoor’s desolate moors for an evening of intrigue with Britain’s well-loved character, the eccentric ‘consulting detective’, Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s tale of the dreaded curse of the Baskervilles and theatre atmosphere received a fresh twist in the ChapterHouse Theatre Company production.
The renowned tale recalls Dr Watson’s experiences at Baskerville Hall as he attempts to protect the newest heir from the curse of a giant demon-hound on the hunt for Baskerville blood.
Avid Sherlock fans, I spotted a man in the crowd sporting a deerstalker hat and a pipe- no coincidence I presume, may have been put off by such alterations to the story. The characters identities, gender and motivations were adapted by Laura Turner which may cause a scoff from any Sherlock purists.
Yet by updating the menacing tale, female characters took on stronger, more valiant roles. Mrs Watson took a few (and gave a few) punches and heiress Henrietta Baskerville arm-wrestled and fenced her way to uncovering the truth about her father’s death.
Sherlock, played by Benjamin Lawlor was a warmer, funnier take on the character than we’re used to. Our usually stuffy and cold detective had a surprising, subtle attraction to Henri Baskerville and not a deerstalker in sight! His guises as a bearded lady and a lonesome ale-drinker were comedic and his multiple scuffles were engaging.
Actor Mark Watson commanded his three unique characters with enjoyable ease as the nervous and controlling Professor Stapleton, the Scottish whiskey- drinking Chief Constable, and the bitter country-man Babcock.
Wollaton Hall loomed over the audience and the small ivy covered set and as darkness fell, the giant, growling hound creeping onto the stage became an impressive, chilling form of puppetry. The hound’s bright red eyes, snarling teeth and the howls across the park were the spectacle of the evening.
The Hound of the Baskervilles is a cherished story, one that simply can’t work on an outdoor stage without some inevitable changes; this won’t be to everybody’s taste. We all have our own interpretation of Sherlock; from the suave cunning of Peter Cushing to action-packed jesting of Robert Downey Jnr, but Chapterhouse has taught us to not be too precious, and enjoy the character of Sherlock in all his forms, because as Sherlock said “the moors the merrier” after all.
Written for Nottingham Post. Published in print 26th August