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Conan Doyle's Classic Mystery Given Farce Treatment
It IS Holmes and Watson but not as you may know them. There remains a constant attraction and interest in the stories of Sherlock Holmes and his loyal sidekick, Dr Watson, especially as this year marks the 160th anniversary of the birth of their creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. But, while the commemoration of the novelist's anniversary has been marked with the release of a special 50 pence coin featuring Sherlock Holmes' distinctive profile, the theatre company bearing the name of The Hound of the Baskervilles has come up with this unusual farce. One of Holmes' most famous cases, about a terrifying beast that roams the moors, is given a major twist in this adaptation that I viewed at the Lichfield Garrick theatre as part of a UK tour.
Oliver Hayes as Sherlock Holmes and Bibi Lucille as Dr Watson consider the case. Credit The Other Richard
There are major changes in this irreverent version of The Hound of the Baskervilles, which was written by Conan Doyle in 1901. For a start, Dr John Watson becomes Dr Jane Watson, although her relationship with Holmes remains largely the same despite the obvious difference. The story is also littered with fairly crude sexual innuendo, a bit too much in my opinion, which is why the play contains a warning that it is unsuitable for under 16s and those of a 'sensitive disposition'. Amazingly, the play consists of just two actors, the equally excellent and energetic Oliver Hayes and Bibi Lucille, who star as Holmes and Watson, as well as a host of other characters. Bizarrely, the play begins with Holmes and Watson leading a warm-up exercise with the audience, whose participation continues throughout by providing the howling of the hound on request.
The Hound of the Baskervilles has a cast of two. Credit The Other Richard
The production consists of Holmes and Watson narrating the story of how they came to solve the case of The Hound of the Baskervilles. In doing so, they take on the guises of numerous other characters, from Dr James Mortimer and Sir Henry Baskerville to the 'glamorous' Mrs Lines and naturalist Mr Stapleton and his sister - usually involving little more than a change of headwear. There is a bit too much running on the spot by Oliver and Bibi to illustrate when the various characters are on the move. But, apart from the laughs that occur when someone forgets a line or there is a wardrobe malfunction, the comedy is at its most effective when Oliver takes on two roles at the same time - much to Bibi's annoyance - notably when Holmes is involved in conversations with Dr Henry and Mrs Lines.
Can Holmes and Watson solve the case? Credit The Other Richard