Delightfully dogged detection

Hound of the Baskervilles

Hall Green Little Theatre

****

TAKE the world's most famous detective, take a play about his best known case, select a time after the detective has starred in a hit BBC TV series and is currently starring on US TV and Sky and you can't go wrong.  Elementary, really.

Or at least Hall Green didn't go wrong with this very slick and well-paced studio production placing a feather firmly in the cap of Sami Mohraby on his directoral debut.

Tim Kelly's adaptation has been set in modern dress which after the TV series is probably what audiences expect rather than deerstalkers and smoking jackets and James Weetman gives us a rather wide eyed and intense Sherlock Holmes, sort of upper middle-class manic, calculating and analysing every word, action and clue – all good stuff.

Tony O'Hagan  gives us a Dr Watson,  Holmes'  loyal sidekick, who is a bit of an old woman, fussing around all the time and getting in the way as much as helping as the worried Lady Agatha, played in a suitably reserved manner by Louise Price, tries to protect young Sir Henry, played in dashing style by Ara Sotoudeh, from the beast that roams the moor

Elementary: Ara Sotoudeh (back, left) as Sir Henry with James Weetman as Holmes, Tony O'Hagan his faithful sidekick Watson (front left),  and Louise Price as Lady Agatha

Then come (lights go off, flash of lightning, roll of thunder, lights back on) the suspects. We have the faithful old retainers Barrymore and his wife, nicely played by the reliable Jon Richardson and, adding a touch of West Country burr,  Linda Neale, then there are brother and sister pair Jack and Kathy Stapleton.

Jack, played by Oliver Harvey-Vallender, is all angst and testosterone as he warns Sir Henry off his sister, played demurely and sweetly by Rachael Pickard. It all seems a little over the top and Jack returns to apologise, but does he really and is all as it seems . . . (snatch of dramatic music)

And we are not finished yet. We have a mysterious escaped convict wandering the moor, a servant, Perkins, played by Josie Booth, who seems innocent enough, but is she?

Then there is the shifty Laura Lyons, played with a sort of upper class shiftiness, by Stephanie Osbourne. We know she wrote letters that may or may not have led to the death of Sir Charles, Sir Henry's uncle who had his throat ripped out by . . . (cue scary music) the beast!

His death left Sir Henry as heir to the vast fortunes of the Baskervilles as the only surviving relative Sir Charles had no childen, his brother John, Henry's father had gone to live in America and died there, and the black sheep of the family, the wastrel gambler Sir Roger, the third brother, had fled to South America to escape his creditors where it appeared he had died . . . or had he.

And then there was the beast, the hound of the Baskervilles, steeped in legend and presumably economy size packs of Pedigree Chum, with red glowing eyes, breathing fire as it stalked victims on the lonely moor, a place where it was not safe to venture out at night. It might be modern dress but this is a play filled with old fashioned fears and terrors.

We all know it is a bit tongue in cheek and the plot has more holes than a lorry load of Polos and we have no chance of solving it as Holmes keeps all the clues to himself until the (cue music again) dramatic end, but it is great fun and has a nice rhythm to it, keeping up a lively pace.

It certainly seems to have struck a chord with audiences – perhaps they are all dog lovers – playing to packed houses so far. A good cast, decent set and fast paced story and full houses – perhaps t is elementary after all. To 17-11-12

Roger Clarke 

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