A play by Steven Canny and John Nicholson for the Peepolykus, by Bersted Arts

The Alexandra Theatre in Bognor Regis, West Sussex, Saturday 9 February 2019

This whodunit is about the famous detective Sherlock Holmes and his trusty assistant, Dr. Watson, as they investigate the death of Sir Charles Baskerville in Dartmoor. The story was written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and published in 1902 and has been made into films in many different languages.

The goodies in the story are Sherlock Holmes (including ‘Stinky Hermit’), Dr. Watson, Cecile, Dr. Mortimer and Sir Henry Baskerville. The main baddy is Stapleton and possibly his ‘Hound’, if it is the ghost of Sir Hugo Baskerville. I need to read the original story to know if the Hound was evil. I do not think it was his fault he attacked the men; he was controlled by Stapleton. We are not told if Seldon was really bad, whether he had killed somebody or had just stolen a loaf of bread. It is unclear if Barrymore, Mrs. Barrymore and the various village farmers are good or bad.

Three actors (Will Hackett, Paul Garnham and James Etheridge) and one actress / stage manager (Bex Harrison) played all the roles. They changed their costumes, so I knew who they were playing. Despite all the fog (which was dry ice made from solid freezing carbon dioxide) and the dark lighting, the play was really funny. Once, when Henry ran scared and screaming onto the stage and died at the end of Act I, the other two actors apologized, wrapped him in a shroud and told him off for dying, telling him he was still alive!

The play was called a ‘spoof’ which means it is a comedy. The scene that made me laugh the most was the extremely long-drawn-out pony death in the mire. I expected it to be quite short, but Stapleton told the story to Henry and Watson for so long that they had to sit and listen to the neighing and brrrring (horsey breathing sound) for 10 minutes until the poor pony finally sank and died. The actors also swore quite a lot throughout the play and eventually apologized to me (sitting in the front row), saying they had forgotten it was a matinee!

We all went for ice cream and came back in, but before Act II could start, Will (the actor playing Sherlock, Stapleton, Cecile, Barrymore, Mrs Barrymore, the train guard and “stinky hermit”) complained about a tweet that had just been sent. Somebody, called John, in the audience had tweeted that Will was an “asthmatic donkey”. Will made the whole cast re-enact the first Act super quickly and they forgot their props and tripped over things!  I laughed all through the second Act but I thought it was a shame when the hound was shot. This was the only sad part of the play. I had a nightmare early that night that the hound, in the shape of one of my large black toys,  was prowling around my bedroom looking for me while I was asleep.

I would recommend the play for anybody aged 8 or more, but not for younger children because it is not good for them to hear lots of swearing. I found it useful to watch a play of the story because some of the modern Sherlock films are not as good or atmospheric as the old black and white films. Several of my favourite authors, including Shakespeare and William Blake, wrote a long time ago, so their stories and plays are set in very olden times. When their stories are put on stage,  we can see how people used to live.

After just 2 hours, I feel I know the story of The Hound of the Baskervilles. It was also a great lesson in dramatic stage dying. I am glad I was not kicked around the stage like the corpses in this play when I had to die as Romeo on stage in December.

I give the play 10/10.

(By the way, in the future, it would be very enjoyable if these actors could do a spoof version of HAMLET.)