Cambridge Arts Theatre, Cambridge – until 18 September 2021
Reviewed by Steph Lott
“Mr Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound…” Celebrated detective Sherlock Holmes and his colleague Dr. Watson are asked to solve the mystery surrounding the untimely and spooky 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.
However, although Lotte Wakeham’s production more or less follows the plot of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most celebrated adventure, any resemblance to previous adaptations stops there. This classic detective tale has undergone a gloriously silly overhaul, with just 3 actors performing all the roles. They had me and the rest of the audience in stitches. Jake Ferretti does a star turn as a pompous and ridiculous Holmes but literally had the audience rolling in the aisles as Stapleford’s tango-dancing Spanish ‘sister’. Niall Ransome is fabulous as the bumbling Watson and one half of a country bumpkin duo. However my favourite was Serena Manteghi. Her physical comedy is brilliant, I loved the expressions she pulls as she bounces around the stage as Sir Henry and a host of other characters, including the other half of the country bumpkin duo.
The action is fast-paced and slick. There are many lunatic changes of scenery and so many visual gags that I don’t want to describe, for fear of ruining the surprises. There are so many brilliantly funny moments and any production which has lost trousers, some of the cast in their pants and a couple of roles played by stuffed dummies is alright by me!
A word here about David Woodhead’s wonderfully creative and inventive set. It’s all on castors and zooms on and off stage at lightning speed. The lighting and dry ice create a nicely atmospheric Grimpen Moor, with a suitably eerie Baskerville Hall above it on a moonlit hill.
When I took my seat for last night’s performance I wasn’t sure what to expect; how could the Hound of the Baskervilles be turned into a comedy, with only a cast of 3? However I loved the play and, from the laughter around me, it would appear that the rest of the audience did too. It was so lovely to be once again in a family audience thoroughly enjoying themselves.
This ingenious adaptation is a fabulous, exhilarating slapstick romp combining theatrical invention and wonderfully comic performances. Gloriously silly and a right hoot. I recommend you go and see it.