Ben Owen

This production of the Hound of the Baskervilles retells the classic Sherlock Holmes story by Arthur Conan Doyle with a comedic twist, billed as “a farcical retelling of Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic novel” as “relentless as it is hilarious”. However, unfortunately the comedy element of the hound never quite got to its paws. Saying that, neither did the horror or supernatural element which the original is famous for. Considering it is pitched as a comedy, quite a lot of effort had to go into following the complicated plot, which didn’t help to lift the jokes. For those who aren’t familiar with the basic premise, Charles Baskerville has been found dead of a heart attack on Dartmoor. His nephew, Henry Baskerville, arrives at Holmes’ Baker Street office to ask him to investigate, as he believes it a murder, committed by or with the assistance of a supernatural hound, terrifying enough to cause someone to die of fear alone.

Whilst there was a regular smirk, the odd chuckle, and even occasional bouts of giggling, the audience never quite descended into full blown laughter. Many strands were thrown into the mix: Holmes and Watson’s relationship, complete with its innuendos; Watson’s inability to keep up; and the actors playing as themselves rather than as the characters, but none of these were ever played upon or played out to their full. I was frequently left just wanting more.

More than once the actors broke the fourth wall and addressed the audience, but this didn’t quite work. It was never entirely committed to and didn’t occur often enough for you to understand the reasoning behind it or remember why they had broken out the last time. The play might have been better off without these moments altogether – either that, or they needed to be taken up a notch.

Credit must go to the technician James Drummond for both the lighting and the sound, which frequently provided light comedic relief and was often the premise for the actors to riff off. The black outs and snapshots of Watson and Baskerville on the train were entertaining and cleverly done and the slapstick element worked well here.


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The three actors, Benjamin Gibson, Joseph Folley, and Sophie Scott, each juggled a variety of characters, but it was Gibson who took this to its most extreme and the hurried costume changes, impressive selection of questionable accents and that wig were genuinely very funny. He certainly stole the show. Although the Corpus Playroom doesn’t offer the widest set potential, what was lacking was used to further the comedy and the production successfully turned what could have been a disadvantage into an opportunity for comedy, for example with the fireplace.

"Whilst there was a regular smirk, the odd chuckle, and even occasional bouts of giggling, the audience never quite descended into full blown laughter"

The second half gave us a new lease of life, and despite the plotline which begged to differ, Benjamin Gibson really carried the comedy at times. The frantic second run through of the first half again at the beginning of the second was one of the most entertaining parts of the show, but this demonstrates one of the main problems with the first half: it really could have been done much funnier in a fraction of the time. Often the more throwaway lines, some of which may have been improvised, were those that caused the most laughter. The truly funny moments were just too few and far between. Perhaps then, there were flaws in the writing, which, combined with at times half-hearted performances, made for a dragging mope through the moors, rather than the romp advertised.

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