Reviewed by Kym Clayton
Director Rob Croser has again adapted a classic work of literature to the stage, and this time Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel The Hound of the Baskervilles has greasepaint and limelight applied to it as we observe arch-rationalist Sherlock Holmes solve “his most terrifying case”. Croser keeps faith with the original and there is no attempt to modernise the late 1800’s style or text, unlike the approach taken in the current television series Sherlock that thrives on being updated.
The action centres on Sherlock Holme’s investigation of the mysterious death of Sir Charles Baskerville and whether his heir and nephew, Sir Henry Baskerville, should claim his inheritance and actually take up residence in Baskerville Hall thereby thumbing his nose at what some believe to be a family curse.
The production has a great ‘look’ about it. David Roach and Rob Croser have designed an excellent representational set which consists of a large raised platform surmounted by two separate tiered structures each with various levels that are smoothly connected by ramps. These structures variously become the stairs and landings in Baskerville Hall, rooms, a railway station, and rocky outcrops on Dartmoor Heath. Croser cleverly moves the action easily and swiftly around the set and the delineation and sense of the spaces was helped by Matthew Marciniak’s excellent lighting design, and John Palfrey/Godchild Mawaey’s foreboding sound-scape. Sandra Davis’ costume also added to the visual image.
Nicholas Ely gave the eccentric Holmes the requisite degree of haughtiness style but bordered on being too melodramatic. Indeed the audience laughed heartily on a number of seemingly inappropriate occasions. Keith Wilson fared better as Dr Watson and was a suitable foil for the ‘bull at a gate’ Holmes. Adam Touminen was chilling in his portrayal of Jack Stapleton – the real villain. David Roach and Myra Waddell were convincing as the butler and housekeeper, but perhaps a little too measured in the pace of their portrayals. They were ably supported by Peta Long, Stapleton’s long suffering wife, Catherine Ellice-Flint as Stapleton’s jilted love interest, and Todd Gray as the earnest Sir Henry. However, acting honors go to Nic Krieg in the comparatively smaller role of Dr Mortimer, the family physician to the Baskervilles. His diction and gesture were perfect, he moved comfortably around the set, and he was able to inject an uncommon degree of believability into the role, including his attempt to show off his phrenological skills!