REVIEW: The Hound of the Baskervilles (Jermyn Street Theatre) ★★★★

Plenty of fog, some criminal puns and rollicking physical comedy in this spirited adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic Sherlock Holmes mystery about the ancestral curse of a hellish hound on Dartmoor. It opens blood-curdlingly with the murder of Sir Charles Baskerville before retreading the well-worn tale with irreverent good humour, delivering a Holmesian romp to warm you into the holiday season.

Steven Canny is the Writer and Executive Producer at BBC Comedy and his co-adaptation with John Nicholson has the unmistakable thumb-marks of Radio 4 comedy, in the tradition of Silly rather than Cerebral Holmes, with plenty of gags and fourth wall breaking antics including a breakneck recap of the entire first half dashed through in minutes flat.

Brilliantly and precisely stage-managed by Johanna Heanley with hundreds of sound and lighting cues, three actors play fourteen different characters, rushing on and off and miming the hell out of the action with plenty of noisy sound effects and spine-tingling sound design by Andy Graham.

Played for laughs with lively direction by Lotte Wakeham, Shaun Chambers has a lot of fun playing roles from Baskerville toffs to Dartmoor yokels. Max Hutchinson ranges from Holmes’s sardonic intensity to a campily beguiling tango-dancing lady in red, making the most of Holmes’s trademark disguises including a vicar, a young girl, and some kind of warlock. Watson having been dispatched to the moors to investigate on Holmes’s behalf, Simon Kane’s doughty Doctor is practically the leading character and often the straight man foil to the silliness around him.

It’s entertainingly daffy with moments of perfectly-timed comic invention and cleverly imagined set-pieces recreating the ragtime frolicsomeness of silent cinema. A warm seasonal antidote to the winter chill, this co-production between Jermyn Street Theatre and English Theatre Frankfurt brings the fun of the fringe to Doyle’s moorland mystery with barking affection.

Reviewed by AJ Dehany