The Hound of The Baskervilles

Date 8th March 2024
Society Sharnbrook Mill Theatre
Venue Sharnbrook Mill Theatre
Type of Production Farce
Director Keith Hargreaves
Written By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Adapted by Steven Canny & John Nicholson

Report

Author: Richard Fitt

If you wanted a definition of the word ‘hilarious’ then this would probably be it. I love these spoof productions of classic novels and this version of Conan Doyle’s masterpiece is probably destined to be a classic in its own right. Performed by just three actors playing fifteen parts between them, it wasn’t just their acting you had to admire, it was their athletic ability, rushing around the stage, changing costumes and appearing on the other side of the stage, or up in the gallery a few seconds later that was absolutely mesmerising. It was breathless stuff just watching them. My ribs are still hurting as I write this.

The set, built by Gerry Stafford, Kevin Beirne, Adawale Olukotun, Hamid Zarandi and Tim Murden was very simple with two armchairs stage right with the classic silhouette of the pipe smoking Sherlock on the wall and a reversible truck for a fireplace to depict Baker Street or Baskerville Hall. Four entrances: a door Stage right, through the black tabs centre rear, a door through a passageway stage right front and rear stage left behind the passageway.  The gallery above the stage was black tabbed leaving a small gap in the middle which was used to great comic effect as the actors fleetingly appeared across it, or from which to throw bodies. All brilliantly effective with hardly an entrance that didn’t produce a laugh, pulling a stuffed cow out from the entrance behind the passageway particularly sticks in the mind. Smoke effects gave us the moor and Grimpen Mire was portrayed by ‘falling off’ the front of the stage, stage left. 

Even the brilliantly atmospheric lighting by Dave and Flick Jones was hilariously used by the actors making a comic point of jumping in and out of it as required. Sound effects by Mark Luckin was as usual cued to absolute comic perfection. Props by Stephanie Wisson also added to the hilarity.

The ‘Pin Up Girls’ found tartan cloaks, bowler hats, deerstalkers, Victorian dresses etc, whilst Debs Bobka sorted the hair and wigs, which all added to the hilarity.

I do wonder how much pantomime work these three actors have done as their repartee with the audience was second to none, as the adlib reaction to audience heckle was worthy of any standup. All part of the script and mostly done with wonderful facial expressions, but introducing the show at the beginning of the first act or getting annoyed at somebody in the audience tweeting that the pace in the first half was ‘asthmatic’ was just side splitting. This led on to them repeating the first half again, all in about five minutes at a pace you had to see to believe.  Energetic doesn’t even begin to describe it!

The only one of these three actors I’ve seen before is Miles Dolby in a very different role in Little Women, so what a treat it was to come across Keir Mulcahey and Joe Bygraves for the first time.

I note in the programme that Keir Mulcahey traces his relationship with the Director, Keith Hargraves back to productions Keith directed him in at school and Keith certainly gave him some work to do here, playing: Sherlock Holmes, Mrs Barrymore, Stapleton, Cecile Stableton, Yokel 3, weird person on train and Guard.  Joe Bygraves by comparison got off lightly with only two parts to play, Doctor Watson and Yokel 1. Don’t get me wrong it was still breathless stuff. Miles Dolby had many comedically exaggerated facial expressions as he played Sir Henry Baskerville, Sir Charles Baskerville, Mortimer, Cabbie and various Yokels.

All three of them were pure class, if there is anybody out there who can do it better than these three, that I would pay a lot to see!

So well done to Director Keith Hargreaves, his cast and crew for an absolutely splendid evening’s entertainment, can’t really praise it highly enough and judging by the overflowing carpark we arrived to, this might prove to be one of the Mill’s great successes, both artistic and commercial.

Finally thank you to Ian Poole and his FOH staff for the usual hospitality. Always a pleasure to visit the Mill.

NODA owns the intellectual Property Rights to the content of all show reports written by NODA Councillors, Reps and Assistant Reps.