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The Hound of the Baskervilles (Hornchurch, Queen's Theatre)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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So you're in the mood to be spooked over Hallowe'en, are you? And Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles seems just the thing to send shivers down your spine? Perhaps not if you're going to see the Steven Canny and John Nicholson version, first developed for Peepolykus, which Bob Carlton has revived for his cut to the chase... company.

It's a clever, rip-roaring spoof for just four performers, who certainly give the audience its money's worth. Norman Coates' set relies on projections, Christopher Howcroft's lighting, a single but highly peripatetic door and vast quantities of dry ice to make considerable impact; you're never quite sure what (or who) is going to materialise next.

We begin with actors waiting to start their performance and a whole muddle of announcements to be made to the audience. Once we're all thoroughly fuddled, the play proper begins. Jonathan Markwood is Sherlock Holmes and a complete gallery of strange people (male and female) with whom the investigating duo come into contact down on Dartmoor. Simon Jessop is Dr Watson, a medical man always trying to catch up with his friend's quicksilver thought processes – and failing hilariously in the process.

Then there's Greg Last who we first meet as a still-wet-behind-the-ears drama school graduate in his first real job and then proceeds to play most of the parts not already taken by Markwood. Accompanying on the piano predominantly with Puccini and Prokofiev (when not providing sound effects and doddering away as assorted country bumpkins) is Steven Markwick, who gives a new meaning to “melodrama”.

It all adds up to a thoroughly enjoyable night out. But be careful of witches and hellhounds when you make your way across the car-park – just in case...


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