A true celebration of outdoor theatre
Posted: 31st August 2016
Theatre review by Ross Mackay
The Hound of the Baskervilles, Gilbert White’s House & Garden (Selborne)
Chapterhouse’s charmingly warm and witty production of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ took place in the brilliant green surroundings of Gilbert White’s House and Museum.
The location set the ideal scene for celebrating what is now our late summer, in the comfort of a most quintessential English garden house.
The performers of Chapterhouse marvellously brought the location to life in a production that embraced the warm and quirky character of the house’s owner, and its fantasy outdoor setting. Although not the haunted moors of Devonshire, Baskerville Hall was easy to imagine - it was Baskerville Hall, minus the curse of a giant spectral hound - well, at least I didn’t hear one anyway…
Arthur Conan Doyle resisted public pressure for eight years before finally seceding in writing ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ in 1902 - arguably the most popular of the 56 short stories and four novels of the Sherlock Homes canon. The Hound of the Baskervilles had answered the public’s cravings for more, and kept Doyle in business as the country’s most popular crime writer until 1927, with Holmes at the helm as one of the most iconic fictional figures of the late-Victorian era.
James Elmes, portraying Sherlock Holmes, amusingly plays out Holmes’ bold charisma and laughable self-belief and faith in his investigative abilities, ever a grievance to Doctor Watson - his overly patient assistant, and Mary his wife - gate-crashing into their honeymoon onto another mystery. His Holmes embraced the antisocial tendencies of Doyle’s devil’s advocate hero into a lively and funny partisan main character, bouncing off his fellow characters with conflict and humour, all well received by the audience all night, all keeping the comic momentum flowing until the end – with the appearance of the hound itself, gifting us with the biggest laugh of the night.
I think credit goes to all of Chapterhouse, however – it was a cerebral mix of well-written dialogue, lively humour and interludes of folk singing and violin playing, all summing up the mood and contrasting settings of the great house, and the mystery of the great outdoors – the comfortable setting of Gilbert White’s House, and the charming mystery of what lay outside in its wonderfully maintained gardens – not that there are many hell hounds in Hampshire of course, but its performers embodied its charming eccentricities all the same.
Chapterhouse’s adaptation carried it all with excellent performances, lively character conflicts and with a true celebration of outdoor theatre.
Chapterhouse Theatre Company, www.chapterhouse.org
Gilbert White’s House & Garden, www.gilbertwhiteshouse.org.uk