26 August 2023




Well known stories don’t come much bigger than ‘The Hound of the Baskerville’s’; countless film and TV adaptations have sat alongside stage versions over many decades. Transferring Conan Doyle’s great stories for the theatre is not something for the faint of heart – these are tales of surprising complexity, of straggling timelines, backstories and plots with many twists and turns. Many adaptors take the path of sending the stories up; injecting them with ‘farce’ and ‘nonsense’ – it is something of a cop out. It is, therefore, delightful to report on the current version by British Touring Shakespeare which provides a faithful adaptation sprinkled with elements which are deliciously tongue-in-cheek.

I watched the show in the courtyard of Fyne Court, a National Trust Property and Gardens in Somerset. In blustery late afternoon and with hints of rain in the air, the production played out in front of vast trees and lowering temperatures and in full daylight. By their very nature, touring productions – especially those, like this, where there is one performance only – have to be quick and easy to assemble and transport; no lighting (apart from natural), limited props and costumes and no set, apart from the surroundings they perform in. The adaptation needs to be all the more smart as a result and here the work of Andrew Hobbs and David Hobbs really pays off; a clear and lucid version of the story that provides those with a knowledge of it and those who do not, with something as close to Conan Doyle as you could want.

With a cast of just seven playing some 20 roles, it is a feast for actor and audience alike. I have witnessed many portrayals of Sherlock Holmes on stage; Keith Michell in ‘The Crucifer of Blood’; Ron Moody in the musical ‘The Revenge of Sherlock Holmes’ and Jeremy Brett re-creating his famed TV role in the play ‘The Secret of Sherlock Holmes’. Tom Thornhill must be the youngest actor I have seen as Holmes on stage but youth is no obstacle to a great performance and this is an exceptional portrayal. Incisive, calculating, commanding and with a twinkle in his eye – everything you want an actor to provide in the role; complemented by clear vocals and broodingly handsome features, all the boxes are ticked here – and some! Much of the story, as in the original, is narrated by S P Howarth as Dr Watson, also blessed with vocal clarity and stage presence; a somewhat staccato performance which takes some getting used to, but is overall a very solid one. Brendan Matthew is a wonderful confection of bluster and scowl as Sir Henry Baskerville – a usual bland role, here elevated by the actor’s ability to find the look or the reaction to draw the audience in. Georgie Murphy takes on four roles including the pivotal ones of Beryl Stapleton and Mrs Barrymore – the scene where she has to lift two very ‘heavy’ suitcases is hilarious and in each she makes her mark; an impressive tour-de-force. Paul Winterford is also a stand-out performer – not least as the butler Barrymore, dragging one leg behind him and moving across the stage in the manner of Julie Walters as the waitress in the ‘Ready to Order Sir?’ sketch by Victoria Wood. Wonderfully fruity performances in his various roles. Alex White makes Stapleton a very chirpy chappy until he shows something of the other side to his character; the actor smartly gives us a glimpse of his range within just that role itself. In between accompanying the play on the piano with his own atmospheric compositions, Alistair Smith provides an array of tiny roles all performed with aplomb.

It is a super ensemble cast. There is a relaxed feel to the production which allows the occasional aside and off-the-cuff remark – Holmes accepting applause when he catches his deerstalker as it is propelled across the stage like a frisbee – and the improvisation of Holmes as one innocent-looking member of the audience (myself in this case) is picked out as resembling an historical member of the Baskerville clan.

But what of the titular character? Where is this baying dog with a thirst for blood? No attempt is made to re-create the hound, it is all done with sounds and acting and it works a treat. It is truly amazing the tension that the production builds up as the story reaches its climax without any complex technology and special effects – this is theatre stripped bare and it is all the more successful for that.

Andrew Hobbs direction is fluid and adaptable – it has to be – he also knows when to take the story seriously and when it can relax and this enables the audience to be engaged throughout.

Conan Doyle’s expositions are often complex and lengthy and tricky to condense and there are a couple of times here where more brevity is needed – the final scene is an example – but this is a minor quibble. The achievement of the production is the overall result which is extremely praiseworthy. A member of the audience mentioned that she could have brought all generations of her family and all would have enjoyed it – ideal entertainment!

This is a cracking production of a great story, adapted with care and performed with fun and flair.


Cast & Creatives


Tom Thornhill – Sherlock Holmes

S P Howarth – Dr Watson

Brendan Matthew – Sir Charles Baskerville, Sir Henry Baskerville

Paul Winterford – Dr James Mortimer, Barrymore, Selden, Frankland, Inspector Lestrade

Georgie Murphy – Cartwright, Mrs Barrymore, Beryl Stapleton, Laura Lyons

Alex White – Waiter, Jack Stapleton, Cab Driver

Alistair Smith – Wilson, Hotel Clerk, Perkins, Postmaster


Writer – Arthur Conan Doyle

Adaptation by Andrew Hobbs & David Hobbs

Director – Andrew Hobbs

Original Music – Alistair Smith

Costume Design – Amanda Beauchamp

Stage Manager – Mary Anne Coleman

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