Review – The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hound of the Baskervilles is often considered Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s best tale that features Sherlock Holmes, the crime solving consulting detective. It tells the story of the curse of the Baskervilles, the eponymous hound and the adventures undertaken by Sherlock Holmes and his trusty sidekick, Dr Watson, as they try to solve the mystery at Dartmoor before young Henry, scion of the Baskerville family, meets a grizzly end. Northern Stage’s production is an enjoyable viewing experience, the stage, lighting and sound noticeably excellent, and a formidable cast who are given free rein to show their talents.

Siobhan Stanley is the standout, her Mortimer dominating the stage, while her Mrs Franland provides levity to the proceedings. Jake Wilson Craw has the moral uprightness and steel that the best Dr Watsons have. He’s the only actor that plays one character and his stage presence and energy are ever present. Rebecca Tebbett’s Henry Baskerville is another highlight as she is able to be both a dandy and capture the innocence of the heir to the Baskerville estate.

This brings me to James Gladdon who plays Holmes. Before I continue, I want to establish that he is clearly a good actor – his Stapleton is probably the best I have seen (and I have seen quite a few), capturing the depths of his character in a way that suggests the time he has put into his preparation. I also thought his Barrymore captured the essence of Doyle’s character. I couldn’t really get on board with how he played Holmes, which rang a little false to me. Gladdon’s Holmes seems weighed down, failure in his last case weighing heavily on him. The decision to make him an alcoholic, as opposed to the stimulants that he is more famously known for, doesn’t help Gladdon; a drug that dulls the brain is incongruous to the character and took away from the genius of Sherlock.

Gladdon also imbues Holmes with a vulnerability that reminds me of Cumberbatch’s performance in the BBC television series and I make that reference because it is quite possible that that is what Jake Smith, the director is aiming for (although, thankfully, Gladdon is not so ostentatious). Gladdon’s Holmes isn’t bad, far from it. However, it does feel a little out of place in this production and is one of the few missteps in this otherwise strong production.

I want to finish by screaming from the rooftops about the beauty of the set, lighting and sound. I know this story extremely well and it is to the immense credit of Amy Watts, Jeremy Bradfield and Michael Morgan that they managed to create a fully immersive environment with an astonishing set (you really have to see it to believe it), pitch perfect sound and music and lighting that managed to scare some of the audience. They worked in perfect harmony with the action taking place on the stage and, judging by the extended rounds of applause that were given at the end of the performance, were well appreciated by the audience.

The Hound of the Baskervilles is a Northern Stage production. It is currently on tour and will be visiting:
The Phoenix Theatre, Blyth, Northumberland on 30th October; Hamsterley Village Hall, Bishop Auckland on 31st October; Troutbeck Institute, Cumbria on 1st November; Shilbottle Community Hall on 2nd November; Bardon Mill Village Hall, Northumberland on 3rd November and The Dukes Lancaster from 6-9th November

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