Ha Ha Holmes (Tour - Manchester)
Ha Ha Holmes doesn't just break the fourth wall, it stomps all over it, says Helen Jones.
Manchester Opera House
The Hound of the Baskervilles is one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's most famous Sherlock Holmes story. Ha Ha Holmes takes this dark tale and turns it into slapstick comedy.
From the opening introduction where we are told to lower our expectations and given our audience participation instructions, it is obvious that this is not going to be a straight-forward retelling of the story.
Holmes and his companion Dr Watson are approached by Dr Mortimer to investigate the death of Sir Charles Baskerville, due to the curse on the Baskerville family meaning they are killed by the beast of the moor. Holmes and Watson repair to Devonshire to solve the puzzle and to save the life of Sir Henry, Sir Charles' heir.
Joe Pasquale is a fast-talking Holmes, working both within his character and allowing his own stage persona it's freedom. His engaging ability to poke gentle fun at himself, his colleagues and the audience make him entertaining to watch.
Ben Langley as Dr William Watson (the reason for the name change becomes obvious during the show) works hard to be both Holmes sidekick and a personality in his own right. He shines most when his physical comedy comes to the fore but is excellent all round.
The majority of the other characters are portrayed by Andrew Fettes, from Dr Mortimer through to the flirty Fanny, he is superb in his quick change ability both physically and vocally.
Keyboard player Andy Pickering brilliantly provides all the live incidental music, but is almost as involved in the action as the actors. While James Lewis' set is hugely complex in it's variety of uses but is an excellent example of how clever design can create so many variations.
Ha Ha Holmes doesn't just break the fourth wall, it stomps all over it, but in doing so it provides a highly entertaining show - well worth a night out!
- Helen Jones