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My Holmes discomfort: Hound is not top dog

PUBLISHED: 17:09 30 April 2009 | UPDATED: 17:14 16 August 2010

SHERLOCKIANS may hate me for saying this, but I can t help thinking that his most famous case, The Hound of the Baskervilles, is enormously overrated, writes Mark Campbell

SHERLOCKIANS may hate me for saying this, but I can't help thinking that his most famous case, The Hound of the Baskervilles, is enormously overrated, writes Mark Campbell.

My opinion was reinforced recently when the Erith Playhouse put on F Andrew Leslie's adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 1902 story.

The chief problem is that it features very little of the Great Detective; Watson instead being given centre stage. Secondly, there are too few characters and very little actually happens.

Thirdly, the plot rests on the credibility of said ghostly hound - an effect that you know will be almost impossible to achieve on an amateur stage.

To give him his due though, director John Hart (who had to step in at a very late stage to play Sir Henry) had cast well.

Physically, Nigel Taylor was the epitome of Sidney Paget's iconic illustrations of Holmes. Likewise, John Hyde made an appealingly bewhiskered Watson.

Roger Butler, Colin Bailey and Eleanor McEnery all played their parts well, while John Hart, although a little mature for the role, coped admirably as the American 'leading man' Sir Henry Baskerville.

Newcomers David Puckridge (Stapleton) and Gillian Saker

(Laura Lyons) were excellent, bringing real light and shade to proceedings - something occasionally lacking in the main performers.

Rachel De Silva was as usual very watchable as the (supposed) sister of Stapleton and love interest to Sir Henry.

But the flaws of the novel were demonstrated all too clearly in overly repetitive dialogue and various longwinded explanations (that usually served to obfuscate matters further). A straightforward book became at times a very complicated play.

Nevertheless, various set changes were masterfully achieved, and some strikingly atmospheric lighting helped instil a sense of impending doom.

On the subject of the hound itself, spooky sound effects tried to conjure up what the budget couldn't afford - but I felt short-changed at not even getting a glimpse of something on those desolate moors.

* The next production at the Erith Playhouse will be Misconceptions by David Lewis, from 11-16 May. Tickets: 01322 350345.

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