The Hound of the Baskervilles

Date 18th June 2022
Society Congleton Players Amateur Theatre Club
Venue The Daneside Theatre, Congleton
Type of Production Play
Director Dave McCaddon

Report

Author: Joe Clarke

Congleton Players were back on-stage last week with their version of the Arthur Conan Doyle classic ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’. This version, adapted by Steven Canny & John Nicholson, is a lot funnier than the original and creates many, many comedic moments for each actor throughout. Directed by Dave McCaddon (assisted by Wendy McKie), it’s fair to say that this production had its fair share of drama. Having to postpone two of the five performances due to illness with cast and crew, this directly and negatively impacted on certain aspects of the play, such as costume changes and technical elements. However, there were many moments of joy and the three actors, who played all of the characters, had their chance to shine in the spotlight and showcase their talent.

This production is supposed to be a sit on the edge of your seat, rip-roaring, belly-laughing comedy. And whilst we had moments of that, for the most part, we had a rollercoaster of comedy, farce and boredom. One of the most painful aspects were the scene changes/costume changes. There were times when the audience were sitting in silence, staring at an empty stage for up to 1-2 minutes. This was due to the actors changing costume backstage. Whilst the scene changes were executed really well, sadly the scene transitions were not and this directly impacted on the overall pace. The lighting design was also woeful with many of the scenes in too much darkness and casting shadows unnecessarily. The sound was generally okay but there were times when mics were left open, and we could hear the actors whispering backstage. In fairness, I am informed that these issues were not apparent on opening night and were mainly due to the crew illness – but I can only comment on what I saw during the final performance.

I also question the ad-libbing throughout, often in darkness. Whilst some of this was funny and added to the style, some of it was delivered in an apologetic way and it was clear it was to cover for actors who forgot lines or went too far off script.

This sounds all negative and sounds like I didn’t enjoy the production – I actually did. There were many brilliantly funny moments throughout from all three actors and I loved some of the direction of scenes which added to the humour. For example, the sauna scene was brilliantly funny, as was the ‘lack’ of fog etc. There were so many comedy subtilities from the director that didn’t go a-miss. If you are a fan of Monty Python, then this production is right up your street. Whilst I’m personally not a massive fan, I am a fan of humour akin to ‘The Naked Gun series, and there were a lot of comedy moments throughout this production which lended itself to this. I appreciate how hard it must be to direct this play with its many locations. Having a static set too must’ve been a hinderance but they way in which this was directed, Dave McCaddon was able to use humour to get around this.

Simon Hoffman played the title role of Sherlock Holmes (amongst others). Simon’s storytelling was brilliant, and I could hear every word from every character. He very much looked the part, and I really enjoyed his understated humour and stage presence. Simon was suitably funny throughout and really helped with the overall pace. Simon was also able to showcase many accents which added to characterisation and humour - well done!

Daniel Wood played the role of Sir Henry Baskerville (amongst others). Daniel’s facial expressions and physicality were fab, and I could tell he was having a great time onstage. I personally prefer actors that don’t try to be funny too much as this is when it becomes farcical and over-the-top which negatively impacts on the production as a whole. Saying that, Daniel is naturally funny and is fundamentally suited in comedy – he’s one of those actors who just ‘have it’.

Will Vickers played the role of Dr Watson (amongst others). Like the other two, Will is suited to this genre and just ‘has it’. I adored Will’s understated performance, which is more akin to my type of humour. He had great reactions, comic timing and line delivery. His version of Dr Watson was brilliant, and he was entertaining throughout.

All three actors were very well cast in these roles, and each positively contributed to the genre and style. Whilst at times I wondered if the audience, or even the actors, were given psychedelic drugs (it was a little crazy at times) I cannot fault the commitment to the roles. Despite the madness, the storytelling was great, and the audience were laughing all the way through – a sure-fire way to tell that it certainly worked!

I thank Congleton Players for their wonderful hospitality and wish them all the very best for their next production of Blackadder II in October 2022.