There is something genuinely autumn-like about celebrating the 120th anniversary of the release of the most popular Sherlock Holmes story with a staged audio play – even if not staged in an historic estate in Dartmoor or in London’s Baker Street but at the tour start at the Harlequin Theatre in Redhill, Surrey. Audio plays are my favourite medium for Arthur Conan Doyle’s oevre but I am also excited about discovering a new venue and almost even more about seeing the crafts of a Foley artist in action.
Very conveniently located four walking minutes away from the railway station (on the line between East Croydon and Gatwick airport), this mid-1980s venue tops the town’s central shopping centre. Its auditorium is much vaster than expected, crowned with a disco ball and clearly built with good acoustics in mind. The theatre’s line-up for this second half of the year promises amongst other events local am dram, tribute shows, sing-alongs, National Theatre and Royal Opera House screenings, comedy and of course panto (Eddie The Eagle starring this year in Cinderella as you asked).
Tonight, the stage hosts six actors on four microphones plus the first female foley artist I’ve ever seen, creating atmospheres with both props and further, played from a laptop, sound snippets and interludes. The classic Hounds Of The Baskervilles works well for those not having heard of Inspector Lestrange, Professor James Moriarty or Irene Adler – even Holmes’ ultra fans have an established code system to navigate through his universe of eccentric, genius crime solving. There is no need for research beforehand; technically, I have not read any of the four novels nor any of the fifty-six short stories Conan Doyle wrote himself. Since Holmes’ first publishing in 1887, the consulting detective has appeared in uncountable retellings and adaptations. Various thriving fan fiction scenes have sent him to new adventures, some approved by Conan Doyle’s heirs and found their way into print, others never translated into English but being instead celebrated online in different mediums – not to mention countless parodies and copycats from all around the globe.
But whoever you ask, this particular story from 1902 is always named as a favourite amongst committed Sherlockians and us occasional Watsons. Given much of the story away would be a crime, just be assured that this is Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson at their best, with no space given (and being necessary) to cocaine-enhanced mind games or dodgy underground boxing bets. Acting veterans Colin Baker as Sherlock Holmes and Terry Molloy as Dr. Watson are giving everything! No pressure, gentlemen: Wikipedia claims that there have been already 25,000s Sherlock Holmes adaptations for stage, film, TV and beyond out there.
The Crime And Comedy Theatre Company’s sound performance has been an excellent finish to a week with far too much screen time: Venturing on an unexpectedly quick train route, I was treated to walk through historic grounds and the moors with my eyes shut, cuddled into a cosy theatre seat. And its lovely to see three generation families on a Friday night in the theatre together, enjoying something not solely aimed at minors. More of this please.
**** out of 5 stars
The Hound Of The Baskervilles was written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and has been adapted and directed by Martin Parson.
Ticket prices vary. The national tour continues through November.