A triumph of innovative staging

Evie Scott reviews The Hound of the Baskervilles, presented at The Witham on 10th October 2019 by The Northern Stage.

The Northern Stage’s ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’ was a triumph of innovative staging and performance; from the acting to the set, it was clear from the start how much work and expertise went into it.

With only four actors and a wonky table, the company rework a Conan Doyle classic set on Dartmoor’s shrouded tors. The tone was eerie, aided by clever visual effects—namely a pliable screen (á la the Frighteners) through which nightmarish figures and the hound protruded. The characters were dark and enigmatic to match; I found the take on Holmes unusual, as he was played quite aggressively (the moody temperament likely inspired by the Cumberbatch school of Sherlock). This was in contrast to Watson, who took centre stage as the loyally stoic doctor—but whilst the pair were occasionally disjointed, both gave a strong performance: well supported by Baskerville and Mortimer, whose actors deftly moved between a range of roles.

The plot was bolstered throughout by the set, music, and lighting. Besides acting, each performer played an intrinsic role in the physicality of the story — whether that be by moving trunks as train wheels; or pressing a demonic hound’s head through the back wall, twisting and shrieking in the blue-lit dreamscapes. Though I was at times a little lost by the multiple narratives (glimpses of backstory were interwoven throughout), the staging lent a fluidity to the performance, making it well paced and resolved. 

As an avid fan of the books, I wasn’t let down, and would recommend this feat of northern talent to any lover of engrossing mystery and storytelling.