Review: The Hound of the Baskervilles delivers the laughs we all need right now

Where this show really delivers is the fact that much of the humour takes place in the background

Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous pipe smoking detective and his deerstalker hat has never waned in popularity. 

Both Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller have played the man with the magnifying glass with a modern twist, and it has meant that a whole new audience can play along and guess whodunnit.

When the Bolton Octagon reopened last summer, they teamed up with the Original Theatre Company to bring this zany three-hander to their new building. 

Photo: Pamela Raith

The reaction to Steve Canny and John Nicholson’s adaptation for Peepolykus was rightfully very warm. 

This was partly because audiences were pleased to be back, enjoying live theatre in Bolton.

But also, because director Lottie Wakeham does have the pace and faithful quality that you have seen in the likes of The 39 Steps and The Play that Goes Wrong.

Photo: Pamela Raith

The plot follows the story that many fans know but the difference is that the cast break down the fourth wall and engage you, particularly if you are sat in the first few rows. 

This production is incredibly physical and the demands on the actors is huge. But they revel in the lunacy and the sight gags which recall films such as The Naked Gun and Top Secret.

Multiple locations are used, and we globe trot without the aid of expensive set design. 

Instead, the production sits in the hands of the talents of Jake Ferretti (Sherlock and others) Serena Manteghi (Sir Henry and others) and Niall Ransome (Dr.Watson and, yep… others), but they are also aided by David Woodhead’s playful costume design and his ingenious set.  

Photo: Pamela Raith

It looks deceptively simple, but having gags revolving around portraits played by actors holding a frame and standing still frowning reminds me of the wonderful BBC comedy Ghosts.

Andy Graham’s sound design injects pace where required, as does Derek Anderson’s lighting design. 

Some of the gags are stretched slightly, as there is an over reliance on the use of pauses. Most of the time this works, but when a joke is repeated many times, the effect does wear off slightly. 

But where this show really delivers is the fact that much of the humour takes place in the background.

It has the feel of chaos, even though it is controlled and deliberate.

Photo: Pamela Raith

Jake Ferretti is a real hoot as Holmes, he brings a modern sensibility to the role and clearly enjoys playing multiple roles at breakneck speed.

Serena Manteghi’s physical comedy means that she works like a Transformer, morphing into each character with ease. 

Niall Ransome has a knack for playing it straight faced and has extensive experience in farce and comedy and it shows; he is delightfully dotty.

Photo: Pamela Raith

The production feels about ten minutes too long and could do with a slight trim. But it is performed with so much love, respect, and energy that you giggle along regardless. 

I laughed many times because I think what we all need right now is something silly to take us away from Sue Grey’s report and white washing of truth.

It’s a shame this Sherlock cannot go in there and investigate.

But for now, you will find him and his pals at The Lowry until the weekend.

The Hound of the Baskervilles is at The Lowry until Saturday 5th February 2022. Tickets are available here.


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