Global Productions present
The Hound Of The Baskervilles
Canine capers far from elementary
The Hound of The Baskervilles
The Playhouse, Harlow
ADAPTING Sherlock Holmes' greatest adventure for the theatre is far from elementary, but Global's taut take on the spine-tingling thriller circumnavigated the limitations of the stage with consummate ease.
With Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic tale bounding between the blasted wilds of Dartmoor and sprawling Baskerville Hall, this single set production had to condense the expansive plot without sacrificing its edge-of the-seat thrills and chills. But by confining the action to the country pile's impeccably period-detailed drawing room - another magnificent set by David Mason - director Michael Philips created a sense of claustrophobic foreboding that helped ratchet up the mounting suspense and gave Richard Holliss the perfect platform for some sublime super-sleuthing.
Tall and willowy, he was born to play Holmes and did so with great gusto. A one-man whirlwind of clipped tones, sparkling wit and piercing perception, he lit up the stage from start to finish and clearly relished the role.
His curiously lop sided relationship with Watson was just right, too - the detective affectionately teasing his loyal companion's weaker powers of deduction as his long-suffering sidekick (a typically solid turn by Keith Cummings) found his exasperation giving way to sheer admiration.
The supporting cast included the consistently excellent Chris Millington, who brought a calm composure to the role of Watson's former colleague Dr Mortimer, and Mark Simons, who impressed in a captivating turn as wide-eyed Sir Henry Baskerville.
Jennifer Dorian was cool and calculating as devious baddie Kathy Stapleton, whose transformation from butter-wouldn't-melt sweetness to defiant villainess provided the ultimate twist, while the brooding Terry Perkins gave her hen-pecked husband the volatile edge needed to throw the audience off the scent.
But what of the titular hound? The programme teasingly hinted at the use of a live animal but what we actually got was far more effective, a short, sharp shock at the French windows which provoked a collective shriek from the palpitating auditorium.
It was vindication, as if any were needed, of Global's masterful use of restraint throughout what proved to be a finely tuned production that breathed new life into an old favourite.