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The Hound of the Baskervilles review at Mill at Sonning – ‘fun, faithful, if lacking in tension’

James Tucker and Darrell Brockis in The Hound of the Baskervilles at Mill at Sonning. Photo: Andreas Lambis James Tucker and Darrell Brockis in The Hound of the Baskervilles at Mill at Sonning. Photo: Andreas Lambis
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Of all the Sherlock Holmes stories, The Hound of the Baskervilles is the one that has been adapted for the stage and screen the most. It’s easy to see why as Holmes and Watson become embroiled in a potent mixture of horror, mystery and, even, romance.

Simon Williams’ adaptation is fairly loyal to the original and orchestrates a clever device to counter the fact that Holmes is absent for much of the story. He is made an observer, lurking in the aisles of the theatre and prompting Darrell Brockis’ genial Dr Watson in his search for clues.

It’s all staged very simply by director Thomas Daley, the production incorporating physical theatre and puppetry, while Michael Holt’s grey, foreboding set, with its different levels, reflects the unpredictable landscape of the moor.

James Tucker manages to humanise the perennially brooding Holmes and his inscrutable relationship with Brockis’ Watson is the backbone of the story. They are supported by a versatile ensemble including Chris Myles as the sanguine villain Stapleton and Ajjaz Awad confidently diversifying each of the five female characters.

The problem here is one tone. Williams’ script offers touches of humour that work well and Holmes’ familiar declamatory deductions are fun. The production doesn’t take itself too seriously. But, as a result, much of the necessary tension is lost.

It doesn’t help either that the hound, when it finally appears, isn’t scary in the slightest. Susan Dacre and Keith Frederick’s puppet is badly under-lit and its operation, under the direction of Rachel Warr, is disappointingly lacking in theatrical impact.

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Promising and faithful adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s story undermined by a disappointing denouement