ACT Theatre Reviews 2021-2022

THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES Adapted for the stage by Steven Canny and John Nicholson Directed by Clive Stack Blackburn Drama Club I received a lovely warm welcome again from the team at Blackburn Drama Club for the second play of their season of comedy, ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ presented at their gorgeous venue, Blackburn Empire Theatre. ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ is an unusual version of Conan Doyle’s classic tale. Adapted by Steven Canny and John Nicholson and directed for Blackburn Drama Club by Clive Stack, the story takes us on the rollercoaster journey of Sir Charles Baskerville; allegedly killed on Dartmoor by a phantom hound who roams the Baskerville estate, to create a slapstick ‘whodunnit’. In a nutshell, that covers the bones of the story, and the flesh itself becomes a little lost in the style of the play, as it is played for exaggerated comedy gags rather than focusing on the story. We were warned in the programme, though, that we would be confused, and this was definitely the case! To set the tone of the play, it opened with the actors providing their own sound effects. These were repeated throughout and I found this element really effective and comical. For example, extreme creaking doors, ghost sounds, and animal noises. The actors then battered down the “fourth wall” and introduced themselves. At this point I knew this was not going to be your average play! The cast was a fantastic one, and they worked together as an strong and well-rehearsed team. There were just four in the cast playing the various eccentric roles. They needed a strong cast to carry this off as the production covered just about every comedic performance style you can think of, melodrama, farce, pantomime and even hints of commedia. Luckily the actors were of a professional standard, and they did indeed pull it off. Steven Derbyshire gave an excellent performance in his various roles creating strong distinctions between all the characters he played and he really showed off his skill as a diverse and accomplished physical comedy performer. I loved the surprise rendition of ‘Baker Street’ on his saxophone, and his performance as the ridiculous ‘Stapleton’ and his silly walk had me in stitches. Every character he portrayed brought a different energy and he owned the stage. Paul McGowan brought us an energetic and animated performance as Dr. John Watson. His role was the constant of the play and the only character of which we could be certain. Paul skilfully showed both the humour, naïvety, and the tongue in cheek nature of Dr. Watson with an accomplished stage presence. I thought it was brilliant when he dropped out of character to tell us that Cecile was “absolutely ravishing”. Dominic Dwyer took the role of Sir Henry and Sir Charles Baskerville. His rubbery facial