Tag Archives: Sherlock Holmes

Sound as a Hound


The Attic Theatre, Stratford upon Avon, Saturday 30th October, 2021

This is my second production of Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous story in two weeks.  From what I understand, there’s at least a third one doing the rounds.  There’s definitely something in the air, given the current popularity of this tale.  And what’s not to like?  An intriguing mystery, Holmes and Watson in great form, and the prospect of a supernatural beast!  Bring it on.

Heading the cast as the world’s most famous consulting detective is Robert Moore, who is quite possibly the best-looking Holmes I’ve ever seen.  Moore’s Holmes is a little imperious and condescending, but there’s humour there too, and the portrayal is nuanced so at times you can see the cogs working, and at others know when Holmes is withholding something.  This Holmes brims with pent-up energy, mental and physical and there’s never any indication of him not being in charge.

Adapter-director John-Robert Partridge appears as Doctor Watson — this case elevates Watson from the role of mere sidekick to the great man; he is permitted to investigate on his own.  Partridge’s Watson is no fool.  Somewhat lugubrious and implacable, he has a rich speaking voice and an understated authority, as though he is Holmes’s star pupil rather than just a sounding board for Holmes’s thoughts.

This excellent pairing is supported by a fine quartet of actors in all the other parts.  Ben Armitage’s Sir Henry Baskerville is laidback and easy-going, a fine contrast to the clipped tones and reserved demeanour of the detective duo.  Armitage’s Henry breezes through the action until the potential consequences dawn on him and he becomes sober and stunned.

Andrew Woolley’s Barrymore the butler is imposing and sinister —more so than his naturist Stapleton, a man prone to terrifying outbursts.  I think something more could be done to emphasise his position as a naturist; an undersized butterfly net alone doesn’t cut it.  Kate Gee Finch doubles as an underused, long-suffering Mrs Hudson, and as the tightly wound Beryl Stapleton in an effectively emotional performance.  Sarah Feltham proves invaluable as a tearful Mrs Barrymore, a guarded Laura Lyons, and a coolly professional Doctor Mortimer.

The intimate performance space of the Attic puts us right in the Baker Street apartment, with other locations suggested by dust sheets on the furniture, or through the use of lighting and sound effects.  The music and sound design by Elliott Wallis go a long way to creating an unsettling atmosphere, underscoring the action and cranking up the tension during the transitions, not least for the climactic confrontation between hound and man.  Onyx Redwood’s lighting adds to the chilling aspects of the story, with director John-Robert Partridge making superb use of complete darkness to put us on edge, as unseen figures weep, laugh, and startle us.  There’s even a kind of Woman In Black gliding around.

An atmospheric and engaging staging of a solid adaptation.  Now, with all this interest in the Hound, perhaps I should dig out the musical comedy version I wrote twenty years ago and see if anyone’s interested…


Robert Moore on the case as Sherlock Holmes

Sedentary, my dear Watson


Garrick Theatre, Lichfield 16/07/11

I am always wary when told a play has no interval.  It’s like they don’t want the audience to make an escape.  Yet, a Holmesophile from way back, I settled into my seat, anticipating good things. Only a few months earlier in that very studio I had enjoyed Ha Ha, Holmes! – also a three-hander.

Sadly, this show suffered from too much narration and barely any action to speak of. Holmes and Watson recounted three of their famous cases, each with a supernatural bent, to Watson’s simpering wife.  When they reached the third and most famous, The Hound of the Baskervilles, the lady at last jumped from her chair, wishing to join in.  She and her husband spent ten minutes reading an overlong passage from the novel to establish the legend of the hell-hound.  On the page this is rousing stuff, but in the hands and voices of these two, declaiming above some intrusive mood music, it became an alienation device of which Bertie Brecht would have been proud.   This really should have been edited down during rehearsal.  Oddly, the mystery was not fully explained, as with the previous two accounts.  This smacked of sloppy writing to this particular sloppy writer.

In fact, overall the thing could have done with a little more rehearsal. Both men had wardrobe malfunctions: Watson knocked drinks off the drinks table when he put his coat on and Holmes struggled with a series of dressing gowns and smoking jackets, the sleeves of which would not co-operate. He wore his final change inside out, the label protruding jauntily at the base of his neck.

Mrs Watson, with her restricted range of reactions, only escaped murder at my hands because I’m basically a nice guy.  When the end came – and it was revealed this was all some kind of séance so that Watson could contact his friend, fallen foul of the Reichenbach Falls, cashing in on Conan Doyle’s well-known enthusiasm for spiritualism – I thought, That’s a clever twist. Ho hum. Now let me get to the Gents’.

Any Holmes fans will tell you the great detective did not perish at that infamous waterfall.  So was this the real Holmes indulging his old friend with another spot of play-acting? Was the play doubly clever, and perhaps unintentionally so?  I am as sceptical of this as I am of séances.