Mutley & Minques:Theatricus Dramaticus The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

Mutley & Minques:Theatricus Dramaticus
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Curious Incident of the Hound in the Night-Time…

The 2019 Easter Festival of Plays at the Gaiety Theatre opened tonight with a fast-paced comedy The Hound of the Baskervilles presented by Mutley & Minques: Theatricus Dramaticus from London. This is the first of six full-length and three one-act plays which make up this year’s packed Festival line up. All of which will be overseen by experienced adjudicator, Jill Colby, who will be providing insightful comments on the performances and adding to our understanding and enjoyment of the plays.

The Hound of the Baskervilles – or at least this version – can best be described as a play telling a familiar story in a very unfamiliar way. Presented by three actors, who play all 15 parts between them, the play is a spoof of the popular Sherlock Holmes story written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, adapted for the stage by Steven Canny and John Nicholson. The script is true to the original story with Holmes and Watson investigating the mysterious ‘Hound’ which is plaguing the Devonshire moorland and targeting members of the Baskerville family but is full – as per the programme – of “madcap comedy, quick changes and cheap gags” along the way.

Right from the start, it is clear this is no ordinary adaptation of the 1902 story with the cast ‘breaking the fourth wall’ with great effect to introduce the play, following the howl of the ‘Hound’ and death of Sir Charles Baskerville played out on stage.

The performance zipped along at great speed and must have taken great stamina from the three performers and back-stage crew, with scene and costume changes a plenty. Projection, cues and comedic timing were also all very good – although Jill Colby felt these could have been sharper at times. Given that this was the first time they had performed the play, all parties to the production did well with a number of moments to remember.

Imogen Farnworth – whose main role was Watson – gave a strong performance and acted as an anchor for the other characters. Mary Musker – who played Holmes as well as both halves of the Stapleton and Barrymore couples – was clearly also an experienced actor who had definite stage presence. Both had a memorable turn with a headless dummy involving more audience participation than intended – but which resulted in quick thinking improvisation! Tilak Patel – who played Sir Henry Baskerville, Mortimer, Cabbie and two Yokels – brought the comedic elements of his characters to the fore.

The set was simple – with no flats and few props – but which used all parts of the Gaiety stage facilities. This was noted by Jill Colby who felt a straightforward set was essential given the high intensity production. Lighting and sound were used also to great effect.

Overall, it was an imaginative and creative production which was appreciated by audience and adjudicator alike. It is never easy to be the first performance in a festival where all are trying to second-guess the thoughts of the adjudicator, and adapt accordingly. That said, the London-based group set a high bar which the other productions this week will do well to match.