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Dated 20th June 2019

By Paul Mason , NODA NW

Sir Henry Baskerville (Phoebe Farrington - left) interrogates Mrs Barrymore the butler (Janet Spooner) under the watchful eye of Doctor Watson (Emily Rawlinson - right). 

NODA Review The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Do I remember the Ealing Comedies? Indeed I do! I take every opportunity to watch them as often as I can. They never fail to entertain and there is always something new to appreciate.

“The Hound Of The Baskervilles” was a delight. The appearance of the celebrated hound itself at the beginning was an unexpected treat. With swirling mists and deep green swards, the stage was set convincingly for this tale of mystery and dark deeds done dastardly.

Director Andrew Rawlinson had assembled a trio of very talented actors to portray the 30 or so characters this tale demands. It was a pleasure to meet them in person at the end. That they had worked tirelessly, well maybe they might have got a little tired, throughout the rehearsals, let alone the performances, was obvious. This is a play that is far from normal in its construction demanding high levels not just of skill but also of stamina and I would suggest excellent memories. To succeed in putting over such a piece relies on total rapport between the 3 actors and their director. It was clear that this rapport was there. Trust between the characters was always on display. I was convinced that should a line be missed, or an entrance delayed the other two would have instinctively covered brilliantly. This was an ensemble performance to be savoured.

It would be impossible to go into all the characters that were on display so let me concentrate on the individual actors. As Sherlock, (mostly), Janet Spooner did not put a foot wrong. She clearly loved being part of the show. Her relationship with Emily Rawlinson as, (again amongst others), Doctor Watson was symbiotic. Emily brought humour and wit to the roles she was cast in. Making up the trio was Phoebe Farrington (great name) as practically everyone else. She was at ease with all her roles and demonstrated a fine understanding of facial expressions to tease even more laughs from this frothy fast paced comedy.

Three Actors, 'symbiotic' bringing 'humour and wit' to this 'frothy fast paced comedy' 

To move about the stage and then moments later come on as someone different wearing a different costume is a challenge. Yet it all worked well. And boy did the audience enjoy it. There is very little I can add really. The effects were good, the lighting and sound added to the atmosphere and the costumes credibly odd. I mean that in a positive way!

Perhaps at times I would have liked to have seen greater use of the full stage. What with only 3 players? Sometimes the actors seemed too close to each other. Also, the changing characters can only really get a full laugh when they first appear. Seldon for example is highly amusing in appearance and actions when he enters initially, but how many times can the same visual joke be repeated before it loses its impact? This is true of all the characters who appear more than once. It is not a fault of the direction or the actors it is just a fact. The replaying of the first act was well executed. Did you consider doing it in reverse I wonder?

This adaptation is often, unsurprisingly, compared to “The 39 Steps”. The latter, and I am pushing my neck out here, is a much better devised piece. It approaches its story from the point of view of telling the story almost literally and leaving the many bits of physical business plus the actors’ ingenuity to supply the surprises. So perhaps comparisons should be cautiously drawn.

Everyone involved in producing this challenging comedy is to be congratulated. I enjoyed it: the audience were on their feet at the end: a palpable hit, my dear Mr. Rawlinson. Ealing lives and was holidaying in Todmorden.

Thank you too for your hospitality in your splendid private bar. The gins were intoxicating