Baskerville at Mercury Theatre, Colchester – review

The refurbished venue reopens with the twist on the Sherlock Holmes tale

Eric Stroud and Richard Ede
Eric Stroud and Richard Ede
© Pamela Raith

We have all heard of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, and the famous story of The Hound of the Baskervilles – but this light-hearted and laugh-a-minute production by Ken Ludwig, and directed by Ryan McBryde, reimagines the notorious case in Baskerville.

The game is afoot for the world's most famous detective and his trusty sidekick on the murky moors of Devonshire. The great mystery: the heirs to the Baskerville name and fortune are being killed, one by one. Is it a family curse, is it the myth of the murderous hellhound, or is it all just nonsense?

Along the way, Holmes and Watson are met with many silly accents, disguises and deceit as five actors portray more than 40 characters across the two hours. This ensures that chaos ensues, and that the comedy in all its forms comes thick and fast.

Richard Ede leads as Sherlock Holmes, and his manner is abrupt yet quick-witted, calmly calculated in piecing together the clues and unraveling the story. All of which is much as you would expect from Holmes. Recent graduate Eric Stroud plays Doctor Watson and shows great promise: he too encapsulates all that you would expect from Watson. The pair work well together in bringing these beloved characters to life.

The supporting cast is made up of Marc Pickering as Stapleton and others, Naomi Petersen as Miss Stapleton and others, and Phil Yarrow as Sir Henry and others; all of whom were exceptional in their multitude of respective roles. The obvious stand-out is Pickering; his accents, facial expressions and mannerisms have the audience in the palm of his hand. His comic-timing is a masterclass and his scenes bring such joy.

The vast number of characters means there is an impressive wardrobe of over 100 costumes, several of which are quick changes, and each hand-crafted with expert detailing. Lighting and projections were cleverly used for setting the scene, moving between locations and making the haunting hound a reality. The level of detail within the production was spot-on, and it transported the audience to the worlds that Arthur Conan Doyle first created.

Baskerville boasts everything you could wish to see in a murder mystery comedy. It's fast-paced, laugh-out-loud, wholesome family-friendly fun. The perfect show to reopen the Mercury Theatre following their refurbishment, I believe the adventures aren't over yet for this production as it will no doubt continue to delight audiences.