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Review: Baskerville at Liverpool Playhouse

By Jamie Gaskin

“The game’s afoot Watson. Someone is trying to murder our reputation as top-notch detectives.”… Yes, Baskerville A Sherlock Holmes Mystery is not for those who take the super sleuths too seriously.

Most versions of Holmes and Watson also seem a bit larger than life, a little over the top and a bit theatrical. Here they are positively cartoonesque with director Loveday Ingram rejoicing in the delights that multi-media and modern stage wizardry can offer. Ingram is assisted by a person with the Hollywood-sounding job of the Commedia Consultant and Movement Director, one Marcello Magni. Not to mention two video designers and a fight director.

No matter, the marvellous sliding scenery and, startling backdrops filling out the narrative passages really works. One loves the trains, the sinister moors and the humongous hound himself. And, of course, the essential curtain of fog that hangs around so much it almost deserved a place in the cast list.

The familiar Hound of the Baskervilles plot is followed fairly faithfully but the style is quite original providing many laugh-out-loud moments. The scene changing is slick and creative often with someone changing to a new character to introduce the new set. Writer Ken Ludwig says his aim is simply to bring people to the theatre to have a rollicking good time. And he succeeds.

Apart from the dynamic duo, all the other roles are performed by three actors leaping in and out of roles with delightful dexterity. Jay Taylor’s Sherlock Holmes has just the right amount of arrogance and is allowed to join in the fun by drenching the stage with the smoke from his famous pipe. Patrick Robinson gives us a confident Doctor Watson with good stage presence rather than a bumbling fool, even if he is duped by The Great Man.

Our heroes are served superbly by the other three actors who between them have over 30 different guises. Ryan Pope’s hotel desk clerk gives us plenty to giggle about and his performance of the doctor who tends to Doctor Watson gives us plenty to worry about if he was a real GP. Bessie Carter manages Mrs. Hudson, maids in two languages and the murderous Floria Tosca which is not a bad night’s work. Edward Harrison was obviously picked for his resemblance to the wicked Baskerville family as he pops up as all three of the knighted toffs and also moonlights as the traditional sniffy Inspector Lestrade.

Does this offering murder the image of the Great Man? No, this is not supercilious but super silliness. Worth fighting your way through the fog for a treat in a seat.

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