Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Theatre Review: The Hound of the Baskervilles (Nottingham Theatre Royal Monday 10 August 2009)

Bless him, Nick Briggs is a bit of a card isn't he?

Last night, H arranged tickets for me and Neil to see the first production in the new Crime Thrillers series at Nottingham Theatre Royal. Nottingham has been hosting this summer season for 21 years now - with Colin McIntyre at the helm (a man who has been in the industry so long there isn't anyone he doesn't know from theatre). Briggs had a barn-storming success in 2008 at Nottingham playing Holmes in 'Holmes and the Ripper' by Brian Clemens (according to the final conversations in an interview with Briggs Big Finish look set to release 'Holmes and the Ripper' at some point seems).

So this year we got Briggs back again as Holmes -- but in a somewhat different performance.

Having taken over writing the play from Colin McIntyre, Briggs provides an archetypal piece of his wry humour that retains much of the original story but gamely acknowledges the limitations of both the setting and the nature of the story. After all, it is actually a rather Holmes-lite tale -- with Holmes seemingly outside much of the narrative whilst Watson 'guards' the American inheritor of Baskerville.

This does not hold back this adaptation which therefore adopts the idea of Watson restaging events for Holmes - and explicitly for the theatre audience's - amusement.

It may sound like "Holmes: the postmodern panto version", with the appropriate amount of charcuterie, but in practice this was just jolly good fun. There was a lovely amount of admiration for the delightful environment of Nottingham's Theatre Royal (reinforced by Brigg's on stage post-performance thank you to the audience and all the staff).

There were plenty of gags about the smoke machine, the cast including two stage hands who would wander on to move the furniture a few feet for new scenes and the revelation of the Hugo Baskerville family portrait was hilariously portrayed. However, I do think my favourite moment was when three characters take a train journey and this is visualised by them sitting on three chairs with the actors kind of 'bouncing' on the chairs to give the impression of bouncing along the train track.

The dread of how the hound itself could possibly be staged was a neat recurring joke and was beautifully done in the end to tie up both the Conan Doyle narrative and the 'staging' of the narrative for our benefit.

The evening ended with Elvis's "Hound Dog" (and Briggs leading the cast curtain call with arm and hip-wiggling boogie) which just seemed totally apt to the bonkers fun of the occasion. Not for the Holmes purists, but definitely a delightful ham-sandwich's worth of entertainment.

If you're in the area, it runs til Saturday and is well worth a visit.

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