Review by Danny Gaisin
Conan Doyle’s eponymous turn-of-the 20th century CSI-type detective Sherlock Holmes leaps off the book pages as a cheerless didactic with highly pedantic mannerisms. In other words, an arrogant and irritating Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon. Perhaps we, and the dictionary should have a new adjective – “Sheldonistic”.
In this year’s SHAW interpretation under the direction of Craig Hall, liberties are taken but given that Doyle died before Hall (or even I) was born; impropriety surely can’t be litigated. Thus, Hall and his dynamite cast have envisioned an opportunity to substantially lighten an almost science-fiction drama into a comedic possibility. It’s a hoot…also a howl!
The innovative set, mood-setting sounds & lighting are balanced with ironic comments and jocular diatribes constantly keep the audience off balance. Hall has also continued the BBT concept by having his Watson character emulate ‘Leonard’. So, maybe another new descriptive – a “Comed-stery”
Sherlock is played by Damien Atkins who faces the challenge is being straight-faced throughout the play; not even cracking a smile or smirk given the giggling coming over the footlights shows his self-control. Traditionally, the lead has a so-called ‘straight man’ persona; think Laurel & Hardy; Abbott & Costello, or Martin & Lewis. In this case, Atkins is his own straight-faced man, while Ric Reid is his straight man foil. Reid steals every scene the two share.
The Barrymore’s are not Ethyl & Lionel; rather, they are the maid and butler of Baskerville Hall and it is obviously no spoiler to say “Nope, the butler didn’t do it!” Patrick Galligan owns the role and by understating his ‘butling’ has the audience convicting him before scene one ends. All this without menace or threat. It ofttimes amazes this unskilled amateur how a adjunct role can be both a standout and so notable. Claire Jullian is the maid and plays another character – Mrs. Hudson. Alas, neither role has much meat so the audience can’t judge her range.
The subject character is a Canadian relative who has just inherited the title & property. Naturally, the opportunity for some local humour is too good to pass up, so the expected ‘aboot‘ and ‘Eh’s abound. Thankfully, nor Blue Jay’s or Maple Leaf pyjamas. There are strong support representations from Gray Powell & Natasha Mumba as the Stapleton couple. The imaginative set that utilizes a 180-degree curved track with curtains are the screens for projected backgrounds. It’s cutesy but we found it distracting rather than accessorizing.
HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES is at the Festival theatre until the end of October. He (or she) is fun, (well-fed) and certainly entertaining. No need to read the original ahead of time!