Review: Sherlock Holmes – The Hound Of The Baskervilles

Hound dog day: David Leonard as Sherlock Holmes and Elexi Walker as the trusty Dr Watson. Photographs: Anthony Robling
Sherlock Holmes: The Hound Of The Baskervilles

York Theatre Royal

Till Sat Aug 27 @ 7pm (Tues, Thurs to Sat) 2.30pm (Weds, Thurs to Sat)

£10-£24

More details and book

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.

Immaculate Holmes

From panto baddie to Holmes the hero: David Leonard
From panto baddie to Holmes the hero: David Leonard

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.

 The show nets big laughs
The show nets big laughs
‘Sigh for the separated lovers!’
‘Sigh for the separated lovers!’

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.

‘Mrs Hudson pops up offering tea more determinedly than Mrs Doyle in Father Ted’
‘Mrs Hudson pops up offering tea more determinedly than Mrs Doyle in Father Ted’
A spooky moment on the trail of the hound
A spooky moment on the trail of the hound

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.