Theatre Review: Baskerville @ Liverpool Playhouse
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Ken Ludwig took Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s third crime novel featuring Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes and decided to reboot it with one simple aim; to entertain.
The original tale, The Hound of The Baskervilles, was published serially in The Strand Magazine between 1901 and 1902. Despite having been adapted many a time for TV and film, I felt an air of excitement for the anticipation of seeing the mystery unfold on stage. The intimacy of the theatre only heightened the essence of the story, leaving me on the edge of my seat before it even began.
With the opening scene, I wasn’t to be disappointed. We are instantly introduced to the world in which the play is set and the plot begins with, of course, a tragic death. The initial scene played in the background and created by the animation and video designer, Paddy Molloy, gives us our first view of the estate. As the cloaked actor moves forward on stage, the rest of the production plays with distance perception and sound effects from all angles of the theatre to create an eerily life-like environment. This opening captures the audience’s attention and the theatre falls silent in an instant.
Dr Watson, played by Patrick Robinson, elegantly guides us through the tale as narrator and so the link is made between Holmes and the goings-on surrounding Sir Charles Baskerville’s newly inherited estate. Within the play there are a total of thirty-five characters, thirty-three of which are impressively played by the same three actors. Costume and well choreographed movement helps us to keep track of who is who whilst continually adding in the element of humour. When there are moments where even the greatest actor would be unable to switch character successfully, slapstick comedy comes into effect with positive results.
The one thing which made me ever so slightly disheartened going into the show was the price of tickets. If you’re on a student budget, I’d suggest trying to book a matinee performance as it’s certainly not one to be missed and with the current weather, you would more than likely be leaving in the dark anyway. The technical aspects did somewhat make up for this, as you could tell the money had gone to good use.
After such a fantastic opening, the play seems to dip only slightly towards the end of the first act. However, the second act certainly makes up for it with the build up to the big reveal and beyond being perfectly paced. The one aspect which made this play stand out for me has to be the ending. This is the part I often dread as the action comes to a close and you wait for the ends to be tied before going off on your merry way. Ths was not the case in Baskerville; in fact, without giving too much away, it keeps you on your toes right until the very end.
Baskerville runs until Saturday 13th January at Liverpool Playhouse, details of which can be found here.