Review – The Hound of the Baskervilles, Duchess Theatre

Wednesday 18 April 2007

Hound of the Baskervilles WEW maskThe West End Whingers don’t normally do first nights.

They deplore the hoards of screaming devotees who clutch at them as they dismount their carriage, desperately hoping for a miracle.

And then there are the paparazzi who – desperate for exclusive pictures which will guarantee a bidding war from the redtops – flash in their faces.

Worst of all are the assorted hacks from the dailies who persist in peering over the Whingers’ shoulders to crib from their notes. That de Jongh’s the worst.

It all makes for a very trying experience.

But last night – heavily disguised to blend in with the Edwardian theme – they were whisked through a side door into the Duchess Theatre just as the lights dimmed for the first night of The Hound of the Baskervilles.

The producers had begged them to attend. In fact the producers had begged a lot of people indeed to turn up through the process of giving away mountains of free tickets.

The Hound of the Baskervilles is of course based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s conveniently out-of-copyright 1902 novel about Sherlock Holmes, Dr Watson and a big dog. This version originated at The West Yorkshire Playhouse and is staged by Steven Canny and a company called Peepolykus (people like us – geddit? The Whingers don’t as thankfully there are no people like the Whingers).

hound-of-the-baskervilles-large.gifThis interpretation is a three-hander spoof in The 39 Steps manner but without sufficient inventiveness to carry the sixth-form send-up much further than the first five minutes (which were actually rather promising). It’s the kind of thing that might have appeared as a sketch in the Russ Abbott Show and the presence of Bella Emberg would surely have enhanced this production.

That’s no reflection on the performers; Javier Marzan, John Nicholson, Jason Thorpe put great zest into the various roles. Basque actor Marzan knows his comic (Spanish) onions and is particularly good as Holmes. The idea of playing literature’s most English detective with a thick Spanish accent is inspired, but – like all of the conceits in this show – it’s just not enough to sustain interest for the 2 hours and 10 minutes. Some of the jokes are merely puerile such as the flashing in the Turkish baths scene.

By the interval, the Whingers felt they had got the joke (again) and tried to retire to the bar which is no easy job in a filled-to-capacity Duchess Theatre (fortunately this is something the Duchess rarely has to worry about).

victorian.jpgExposed once again to the madd(en)ing crowds, Andrew timorously sipped his interval tincture, desolately knowing that the moment he put it down an admirer would filch the lipstick encrusted vessel to flog on ebay. The fans were onto him, even camouflaged in a suitably late-Victorian bustle and keeping his head down beneath his overdonemillinery, people seemed to be staring at him. How could they know? The public are so dashed clever these days.

Relieved to be back under the cover of darkness for the second act the Whingers were treated to more of the same (and some of it again).

We did wonder if perhaps we have been seeing too much arty stuff of late such as this and this and whether it has turned us into snobs. After all, lots of other people in the audience seemed to be having a great time ( although many of them were actually connected with the show and not being very discreet about it). If the concept of being the only sober ones at a party were known to the Whingers, then surely this is how it would feel.

The kindest thing we can find to say really is that our mothers might like it which is a great relief to Phil who has lately been worrying that he might be turning into his.

11 Responses to “Review – The Hound of the Baskervilles, Duchess Theatre”


  1. Not the only sober ones, trust me. Have to agree with all of the above.

  2. jackie Says:

    You are very rude! What is wrong with some laughter. I have nothing to do with show and was there on the first night mainly because i had seen it before in Leeds and wanted my friends to see it. It was tremendous fun and would happily see it a third time. Yes you have become snobs

  3. Paul Kellaway Says:

    I saw this on a Friday evening, with the theatre packed. I would have to say I completely disagree with the ‘review’ above, though I hestitate, as there is little in the way of comment on the play itself.

    The audience I would say enjoyed it completely, and I assume Friday evening performances aren’t filled with yes men. ALl of my party were laughing and were all sober having spent the day working. Whilst you might consider flashing puerile, it is a spoof, and humour of all avenues is to be expected.

    Furthermore, the play actually retained pretty much all of the content of the novel.

    Perhaps you should attend when you are surrounded with a normal paying crowd.

  4. ben Says:

    i saw the play in oxford and really enjoyed it. i hadn’t laughted so much in years. i find your report unbelieveable.

  5. John Says:

    Forgive my innocence, but I thought that Whingers’ reviews were, by definition, supposed to be ‘unbelievable’…well, maybe just surreal then

  6. Simon Says:

    Never felt the need to share my opinions on a play before but I saw this last night and agree with every word, bar the praise for the actors – they weren’t that great either. My god, this was bad. We saw ‘The 39 Steps’ a few weeks back and loved it, but by last night’s interval we were talking about leaving early. We didn’t, unfortunately, and endured another hour of – as the review quite accurately says – sub-Russ Abbott sixth-form send-up. Others didn’t stay, and I noticed quite a few newly vacated seats come the second half. Why did this ever make it to the West End? And yes, we did pay. And no, we’re not snobs. Go and see ‘The 39 Steps’ instead. This is just awful.

  7. Sophia Says:

    I have just returned from watching The Hound of the Baskervilles – anyone who enjoys a good laugh should go and see this production.
    I read the review only after I had purchased my ticket, so was not really looking forward to the show. It is because I enjoyed myself so much that I decided to come back home and reply. I enjoyed it from start to finish, so did the rest of the audience.
    The only people who would not like this take life far to seriously. It is a gag a minute, relaxing, enjoyable, light hearted night out – and it works. I will be recommending this show to my family, friends and colleagues.


  8. It’s a political hot potato, this one.

  9. Claire Says:

    I will be seeing this show again. It was fantastically staged, wonderfully energetic, and ran the gammut from light to funny to scary (maybe I scare easy…).

    It’s the funniest show I’ve seen in ages and recommend it to anyone. Peepolykus are obviously a talented bunch, and what’s wrong with them redoing something that’s out of copyright – if people didn’t, no-one would ever do Shakespeare!


  10. Claire – for future reference, it’s “I scare easily”, not “I scare easy”. Feel it’s only fair to tell you.

    Oh, and if you really want to see it again you had better hurry as it’s closing early.

  11. Simon Says:

    ‘The only people who would not like this take life far to seriously.’

    We just don’t soil ourselves laughing because Sherlock Holmes has a Spanish accent..


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