REVIEW: The Hound of the Baskervilles, Original Theatre Company and Octagon Theatre Bolton (Richmond Theatre)

The game is afoot. Or, perhaps more accurately, apaw. The Hound of the Baskervilles is bounding across the country, pursued by Sherlock Holmes and chums. Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic detective tale has been given a fun-filled, farcical overhaul in Lotte Wakham’s production, which was first performed at Octagon Theatre Bolton this summer. Octagon have now teamed up with Original Theatre Company to bring this hilarious three-hander to audiences across the country (directed by Tim Jackson). We were invited to review the production last week, fittingly in Richmond, the home of another well known canine on the loose! If you don’t know what we’re talking about (a) are you new to the internet? (b) stop what you’re doing and watch the Youtube clip below, but also, and most importantly (c) please come back and read the rest of this review……

And if you thought that was hilarious, we know a play that is probably right up your street. The Hound of the Baskervilles is a fantastically funny take on one of the best known Sherlock Holmes tales. The story starts with the untimely death of Sir Charles Baskerville who has seemingly fallen victim to a cursed hound who roams the moors of Dartmoor. As the last remaining member of the Baskerville family, Sir Henry Baskerville (Serena Manteghi) is in need of a detective of the highest pedigree if he’s to avoid meeting the same fate. But with Sherlock Holmes (Jake Ferretti) left behind in London, it’s up to trusty sidekick Watson (Niall Ransome) to take the lead. Can he crack the case and collar the culprit before the hound is set on Sir Henry?

This is farce at its finest, played by a trio of actors who switch between a multitude of roles at breakneck speed (and that’s before they reprise the entire first Act at the start of the second!) The fourth wall is broken from almost the first moment, with a warning that the show is so scary that timid audience members ought to vacate the auditorium before it begins. Unsurprisingly everyone stays and the only thing they end up screaming with is laughter. It’s clear that the cast are having great fun up on stage and they bring the audience along with them. It’s one of those shows which has people in hysterics, with infectious laughter setting off others in the audience. There is something for everyone, with a great mix of well-written gags in the slick script (adapted from the novel by Steven Canny and John Nicholson for Peepolykus) and some very effective physical comedy. Particular highlights include a running joke about Manteghi being unable to do a Canadian accent and an extremely amusing scene in which Watson and Sir Henry sink in the mud. Sir Henry’s love affair with Cecile Stapleton (Jake Ferretti) is also especially entertaining.

David Woodhead’s set design is fantastic, with a stunning 3D representation of Baskerville Manor raised high above the action, while onstage there is a nifty, versatile piece of scenery which is used effectively as a desk, train and sauna. Clever lighting from Derek Anderson and liberal use of a fog machine also add to the atmosphere.

Whether you’re a particular fan of Sherlock Holmes or just looking to see a play which most definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously, you most certainly won’t be in the dog house for taking the family to see The Hound of the Baskervilles. A spectacularly silly treat for all ages, this production is sure to have you rolling over with laughter.

The Hound of the Baskervilles is on a UK tour in 2021/22. It played at Richmond Theatre from 1 to 6 November. We received complimentary tickets to the 7.30pm performance on 5 November in return for a review.

Age recommendation: 8+

Image credit: Pamela Raith