THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Blue Orange Theatre, Birmingham, Monday 2nd September, 2019
The publicity material for this two-hander of an adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes classic says the show stars “No one famous” but a little detective work on my part leads me to suspect that the performers are called Oliver Hayes and Bibi Lucille, who share the narration as Holmes and Watson (here, Doctor Jane) as well as playing all the parts in the play.
It’s fast-paced and funny – there is much to be enjoyed in the slipshod way the pair tear around, donning hats and wigs and so on to populate the story. It’s deceptively slapdash, with lines fluffed and forgotten, crucial props going astray and plenty of onstage bickering. Every now and then they come together (to use one of their own innuendos) with instances of slick comic timing. You want innuendo? They will give you one. The script (by Thomas Moore) is riddled with double (and single) entendres. Each characterisation is more grotesque than the last, with Holmes giving us his bent-backed Barrymore and his louche Laura Lyons, and Watson her bizarre Doctor Mortimer and knee-slapping Sir Henry.
Oliver Hayes has a cheeky twinkle in his eye, like a young Michael Palin, while Bibi Lucille is as funny as she is versatile. The whole thing is camp, cheeky and daft, yet the plot adheres to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel, hitting all the main points of action and including all the major characters – we, the audience, are recruited to portray the titular Hound, howling on demand.
Hilarious, energetic, silly, saucy and smart, this show provides a good workout for your laughing muscles, even though some of the gags are a bit laboured and repetitive, which somehow adds to the fun. The muckiness is in the great British comedic tradition, and these two are such a hugely likeable pair, they can pull it off with ease.