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