STAGE REVIEW: The Hound of the Baskervilles @ Northern Stage, Newcastle (12.09.19) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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This September, Northern Stage presents Sherlock Holmes’ most infamous case – the gothic classic The Hound of the Baskervilles.

But this is a story that differs from Holmes’ other adventures, almost as if Arthur Conan Doyle had written it as a Halloween episode. So, as the nights draw in and there’s a distinct chill in the air, it’s the perfect show to get audiences into an autumnal state of mind.

The timeless story is expertly crafted into a two hour twisting-turning ghost train, complete with rolling moors, a haunted mansion, a wandering demonic hellhound and a family ghost story.

The play makes use of a limited stage brilliantly – every inch is explored, from a centrepiece set up to mirror the rise of a moor topped by Baskerville Hall, to the beautifully painted backdrop, which has the ability to reveal Watson’s nightmarish visions (and an excellent climax to the story, too).

In fact, the intimate staging helps to heighten the tension during moments of drama, with the atmospheric use of mist adding to the claustrophobic tension. An immersive soundtrack – mixed in with the ticking of a clock and beating of a heart – upped the pace and added an almost Edgar Allen Poe-feel to the play.

The whole story is performed by just four actors, each bringing distinctive quirks to their character list. The dynamics between the actors was frequently magnetic, and the four played off each other with charisma. At times, there was even a little self-aware humour injected into the script to provide comic relief.

Special mention has to go to Siobhan Stanley for a stunning vocal piece towards the end, and to James Gladdon, who seamlessly manages to bring to life some of Holmes’ darkest moments alongside the child-like exhilaration of butterfly-hunting Mr Stapleton.

The only actor to remain constant at the story’s heart is Jake Wilson Craw, who as Watson strives to solve the case alone but fights despair as he loses his way. Watson reminds us that we’re only human, and when even the landscape is against us, it’s our sense of humanity that can save us.

Not at all surprisingly, all performances at Northern Stage are sold out, but the group is touring the region to perform the play in some smaller venues. Find out more here.

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