Arthur Conan-Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories lend themselves to comedy because they are often quite fantastical. Over the years many a comedian has used the brilliant detective and his sidekick, Dr Watson, in order to get a laugh. The characters are so recognisable all you need is a meerschaum pipe and a deerstalker hat and everyone knows who you are.
This production of Hound of the Baskervilles, a faintly ridiculous tale in itself when you break it down, was really entertaining and great fun to watch. It was performed with great verve, energy and pace by three very talented comic performers who played all the parts. A perfect pick-me-up on a cold night in Salford.
If you go to see this play expecting a serious dramatisation of the Conan-Doyle classic, then you will be sadly disappointed. They are faithful to the story, but the writers obviously realised that a tale about a killer dog on Dartmoor linked to one family is a fairly bonkers premise to begin with and that the rest of the story is also rich in comic potential.
Interestingly, before the play started the actors introduced the play, breaking down the fourth wall, as they warned anyone of a nervous disposition to leave. It was a good way to start proceedings and it enabled the audience to buy-in to what they were trying to do, that is just to have a lot of fun.
The actors have to be very fit as they are constantly on stage or running off it to change costumes. Backstage organisation must be on point for them to pull off the quick changes as successfully as they did. The props were cleverly done and ingeniously designed, especially the snooker table.
Jake Ferretti reminded me of the great Rik Mayall in the way he played Holmes. He was a master of farce, and this version of Holmes is very farcical. There is no brooding intent and mournful violin playing for this Sherlock. It is all about being silly and you could see that the actor was having great fun with his false beards, dresses and playing around with fans.
Niall Ransome played Dr Watson with understated glee. He demonstrated an impressive comic physicality, not least in the second half when he is wrestling with a dummy. In some ways he is the straight man, but he is the one who keeps the action motoring along.
Serena Manteghi was fantastic as Sir Henry and other characters. As the heir to Baskerville Hall she was naive, romantic and daft. In some of the set pieces she demonstrated wonderful dexterity and comic timing. It was an energetic performance that also displayed a lightness of touch.
It was very entertaining and well worth seeing if you are looking for a fun night out.
It is on at the Lowry Theatre, Salford until the 5th February and then continues on tour. https://thelowry.com/whats-on/the-hound-of-the-baskervilles-2/
Reviewer: Adam Williams
Reviewed: 1st February 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★