“There is nothing more stimulating than a case where everything goes against you.” – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The theatre describes this interesting take on a serious classic as a “gloriously funny twist on a legendary gothic mystery”, and director Anna Dobson summarizes the production by stating that “this is a comedy retelling of a classic...still perfect for anyone who is fan of the book or the film as there are nods to both throughout. It really celebrates the story of The Hound of the Baskervilles and its rich characters but invites the audience to laugh and enjoy some really brilliant comedic storytelling in the process”.
The comedy originally premiered at the West Yorkshire playhouse in 2007, with frontrunner of the original trio Peepolykus stating that “we always enter into a world of the ridiculous". I found that the elements of absurdity continuously presented came to the forefront throughout the performance as the comedic components of the script seemed to battle with the serious plot of Doyle’s original story.
Although the comedy persistently warranted a positive and engaging audience reaction, it often seemed to compete with, and therefore interrupt the storytelling, especially when the fourth wall was broken as the actors spoke directly to the audience using their first names. Stepping in and out of the story in this manner was undeniably comedic, but it simultaneously disrupted the immersive audience experience had almost the same effect as bringing the house lights up whilst still in the dark.
Furthermore, the multitude of different characters often added confusion and disrupted the flow of the play, as the limited props and costume often made it difficult to differentiate between the abundance of new characters introduced. Perhaps the limited and faulty wardrobe choices were supposed to add to the scheme of absurdity, but it was also handicapped by creating a chaotic atmosphere which was sometimes hard to follow.
Overall, despite its ridiculous and staccato elements, I believe that the play was efficient at providing a steppingstone of accessibility for the Holmes novels, as well as providing a fresh and light-hearted twist on a well-known classic and heavy narrative. The play could perhaps act as an entry point for those who want to explore the adventures of Holmes and Watson further but are not ready to delve into the lengthy novels or serious adaptations just yet.