Review: Hound of the Baskervilles at the Cambridge Arts Theatre
Sherlock Holmes’ most famous case has been re-made as a breathlessly fast paced gag-a-minute farce and it turned out to be the perfect re-entry to the theatre for tonight’s audience.
For anyone who has been missing live performances, this was a reminder why streaming can’t match the fun of sitting with a group of people enjoying each other’s laughter.
The Original Theatre Company’s production of The Hound of the Baskervilles at the Cambridge Arts Theatre, does stick reasonably faithfully to the plot in which world-renowned detective Sherlock Holmes and his colleague Dr Watson are asked to unravel the mystery surrounding the untimely death of Sir Charles Baskerville.
With rumours of a cursed giant hound loose on the moors, they must act fast in order to save the Baskerville family’s last remaining heir.
But with just three actors to take on all the roles, the manic changes of scenery and costumes add a slightly hysterical edge to the performances. There are so many visual gags - some of which I can’t describe here as it will spoil the surprise - but brilliant moments included a sauna in full suits and bowler hats, Homes and Sir Henry Baskerville sinking into a quagmire on the moors and a ‘lamb in a bag’. The pace picks up so much in the second half that my 12 year old almost fell off her seat laughing.
Starring Jake Ferretti (The Kitchen, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, The Understudy) as Sherlock Holmes , Serena Manteghi (Welcome To Iran, To Build a Rocket, Mrs Wilson) as Sir Henry and Niall Ransome (Mischief Movie Night, The Comedy About A Bank Robbery, Fcuk'd) as Dr. Watson, the three actors take on a cast of more than a dozen characters.
Jake Ferretti and Serena Manteghi do most of the heavy lifting with their rapid costume and character changes and there’s a feeling that anything could happen. So much so that at one point when Ferretti was yanking a rope to get his steed on stage I genuinely believed the other two actors were about to reappear in a pantomime horse outfit.
But all three are fantastically funny. Feretti’s Holmes is pompous and ridiculous, but his funniest moments are probably as Stapleford’s tango-dancing Spanish ‘sister’. Meanwhile Manteghi’s physical comedy is brilliant and she bounces around the stage as Sir Henry and a host of other characters. Niall Ransome is hugely likeable as the bumbling Watson whose increasingly ridiculous inability to recognise Holmes in minimal disguise becomes one of the show’s running gags.
David Woodhead’s set is part of the fun as it’s all on castors - a fireplace, a bed and a snooker table are all wheeled on and off at lightning speed. And one ingenious piece turned from being a desk, to a sauna, a train and a cab with a few flips. The lighting and dry ice create the atmosphere of the Grimpen Mire and above it all glowers Baskerville Hall on a moonlit hill.
This was the first night of the tour, which is directed by Lotte Wakeham, and is definitely worth catching while it is in Cambridge.
- Hound of the Baskervilles is at the Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, September 18.