Directed by Rob De Fries
Gungahlin College Theatre to 27 April
Reviewed by Len Power 19 April 2019
The author of ‘Baskerville’, Ken Ludwig, is probably best known for his farce ‘Lend Me A Tenor’ and the long running Broadway musical, ‘Crazy For You’. As well as original works, he has written numerous new stage adaptations of classic novels and plays such as ‘Treasure Island’, ‘Twentieth Century’ and ‘Murder On The Orient Express’. His work has been performed in over 25 countries throughout the world.
‘Baskerville’, an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mystery novel, ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ was first performed in Washington, D.C. in 2015. Similar in structure and style to the international hit play, ‘The 39 Steps’, the show pokes fun at a melodramatic genre by having three actors frantically play a multitude of characters around the two actors who play it straight as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.
Plays like this walk a fine line. Go too far with the crazy stuff at the expense of the story and the whole confection can collapse. It needs skilful playing and strong direction.
Brian Kavanagh is fine as a classic Sherlock Holmes. Adam Salter has more to do in the story as Dr. Watson and gives a creditable performance. The other three performers, Nicholas Steain, Michael Cooper and Teresa Wojcik do all the really hard work of playing the rest of the characters with numerous costume changes. Some it works but a lot of it doesn’t.
The play itself has far too much exposition and extraneous characters that don’t add anything to the plot. The actors playing the multiple roles needed firmer direction. There was too much over-playing and trying to be funny rather than finding the humour within real characters. Cast members were not quick enough with their cues and the pace of the production was too slow overall. There were several moments when the stage was left empty for no apparent reason and some costume changes had not been timed well.
The set, designed by Andrew Kay, looked good but certain aspects like the doors and steps inhibited the pace of the show and needed better solutions by the director. Lighting design by Craig Muller was often too dark, giving a dull look to the production rather than a period atmosphere.
The overall impression of the production was that it was under-rehearsed. The type of absurdity that the director was aiming for was fine but it wasn’t achieved by opening night.
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