Saturday, 20 October 2012

Newport Playgoers in pursuit of Hound of the Baskervilles

My cover for last weeks South Wales Argus
Guide promoting Hound of the Baskervilles
featuring cover photo by Phil Mansell.
I wouldn’t usually write a review of a production that featured my brother in a role. As you might imagine I’m damned if I say something either positive or negative about it; however as I am a bit of a Sherlock Holmes fan I do feel compelled to write something on Newport Playgoers presentation of Hound of The Baskervilles directed by Alex Wilson.

The Hound of the Baskervilles is undoubtedly the best known of Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes adventures, adapted for film and television many times over the years, yet I had never seen a stage version.

On sitting down to watch Newport Playgoers presentation the thought did occur to me that such a production would have a lot to live up to.

Simon Williams' stage adaptation of Conan-Doyle’s original story comes across as a homage to those wonderful Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce films from the 1940s.

There are a few jokey lines. References to Sherlock Holmes “as seen in The Strand”, the new invention of the phone, in which Holmes interjects that in a 100 years it will be technology that can be carried in a pocket and Holmes own Cocaine addiction “you shouldn’t take it on an empty stomach” scorns Dr Watson.

A simple but effective set switched the scene from Baker Street (contained within a giant book of Hound of the Baskervilles) to the moor to Baskerville Hall.

There were outstanding performances too. Steve Drowley made a great stage Holmes, reminiscent in places of Christopher Lee’s portrayal. The sequence where only Holmes voice is heard in order that Watson can independently carry on his investigations allowed him to project his characterisation with his voice only and ultimately still carried a presence.

Chris Bissex Williams was fabulously cast as Dr Watson, recalling elements of Nigel Bruce bumbling portrayal but still bringing much of his own originality to the role. James Symonds made a strong debut as Sir Henry Baskerville with a very convincing American accent.

There were also strong support from Paul Howells as Barrymore (adding a huge comedic touch with a square beard), Chloe Williams as the beautiful Beryl Stapleton and Sue Morgan as Eliza.

There was also a neat scene where Holmes pursued a suspect through London in a handsome cab this involved the cast giving chase through the theatre aisles and was good fun to witness particularly with the depiction of street urchins in Victorian London.

The Newport Playgoers presentation of Hound of the Baskervilles was a fun homage to the original story, and I sincerely hope they will return to Holmes once again at some point in the future to translate another one of his adventures on stage.

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