Sherlock Holmes: The Hound of the Baskervilles

Playing with form is a bold move, one for which Ross Macfarlane, the director of this one-man show, must be praised. His valiant production asks: why follow convention? Why pander to audiences’ expectations? Why the hell not adapt a complex detective novel for solo performance?

The show isn’t inherently unpleasant; Reid carries the weight of the show’s considerable flaws impressively and the pacing problems have actually turned the grim tale into rather a fun romp for children.

Unfortunately for Macfarlane, his production satisfactorily answers its own questions within about fifteen minutes. Jack Reid has charisma, an impressively broad range of accents and a memory elephants would envy, but he’s simply not equipped to conjure a scene involving three or more characters; virtually the only character he doesn’t play here is the Hound itself (a crying shame – I would have liked to hear its West Country burr). The biggest flaw in Reid’s performance (and in Macfarlane’s direction) is his failure to identify each character with an individual physicality. Hopping madly between accents just isn’t enough to make character distinctions clear, making some scenes very muddled indeed.

Given this problem, the production’s use of multimedia is inspired, but jarringly implemented. During many scenes, projected illustrations of the novel show the characters in any given scene while evocative soundscapes add to the atmosphere. These are never faded in and out, though, making transitions from one illustration or soundscape to the next so clunky that we are repeatedly distanced from Reid’s performance.

The mystery ought to arouse our interest as much as Sherlock’s: tracks of a huge, mythical hound have supposedly been found near the body of the dead Sir Charles Baskerville. Watson, our narrator, is sent to investigate and report back to Holmes from the Baskerville estate. Macfarlane’s script does a good job of abridging the novel into a sixty-minute show, but the resulting cavalcade of questions and instant answers puts any sense of tension to flight. Sometimes, you could google the unknowns of the plot and still get faster answers from Reid. All of the details are far too tightly packed, doing away with perhaps the most elementary requirement of a gripping detective story: pacing.

The show isn’t inherently unpleasant; Reid carries the weight of the show’s considerable flaws impressively and the pacing problems have actually turned the grim tale into rather a fun romp for children. It’s just difficult to see why Snow Angels have chosen to stage this story as a solo performance: the generic constraints they’ve chosen lend themselves far better to the pithy vignettes of conventional one-person theatre than to this curious incident of a dog in the night-time.

Reviews by Larry Bartleet

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Ross Macfarlane directs Jack Reid in this one-man, one hour performance as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective investigates the mystery of a chilling family curse. The Snow Angels Theatre Company present their 2014 NLS Fringe show following last year’s successful production of Charles Dickens’ The Story of Little Dombey. 2013 Fringe Reviews: ‘A great storytelling performance’ (Daily Record); ‘don’t miss this oasis of literary calm in the National Library… that showcases the beauty and wit of Dickens’ language’ (BroadwayBaby.com); ‘sheer engaging charm’ (ThomDibdin.co.uk).