As the show came to a close, a sense of despair fell over me. A feeling of dread made its way through my body as the curtains pulled closer together. I was left grappling with one question and one question only — how can I review something that is un-reviewable?
In a nutshell, The Hound of the Baskervilles is brilliant, and all its brilliance lies in the surprises it has in store for the audience. If, through my review, I were to give these surprises away, I would be doing a great disservice to the production team and the terrific trio of performers: Jake Ferreti, Serena Manteghi and Niall Ransome. To avoid that, I request you, my dear readers, to indulge me in the literary equivalent of dumb charades.
First, an analogy. If Manchester’s main theatres (i.e, Palace Theatre and Opera House) are the equivalent of chain Pizza Express outlets, serving a standardised menu of nourishment, then theatres like the Lowry or the Royal Exchange are the lesser known, undiscovered places serving delectable cuisines whose secrets are only known to a few.
It is no stretch then, to say that The Hound of the Baskervilles is the crème de la crème amongst what Manchester’s theatres have to offer. It combines a well-known story with a zesty, original script that puts the performers’ comedic timing, physical strength and versatility of delivery to the ultimate test. It conjures images of a Charlie Chaplin-esque vaudeville act resplendent with the colourful sets mimicking a Wes Anderson movie, and it does all this while remaining faithful to the original that it adapts, never pushing the joke to the point where it becomes a live parody act.
Throughout the runtime of the performance, there is scarcely a moment where you feel like taking your eyes off the stage. Every little thing available to the performers has been used to maximum effect, be it the props, the dialogues, the settings, and even silence!
The show’s only downfall is that all its achievements lie in its inversion of everything you might associate with a Sherlock Holmes story, and the moment a reviewer starts writing about that, the mystery is given away, hardly leaving a reason to go watch it. Needless to say, this leads to a less than full house. Then again, if you miss it, it definitely is your loss! In light of that, I make an appeal to your monetary senses.
One of the things a reviewer is often encouraged to write about is whether they would have parted with their own money to watch the performance they are reviewing (after all, reviewers are given free tickets). While most performances leave me on the fence, for this play, the answer is a resounding Yes!
For a long time, I have not watched something so economical yet something that does justice to the various theatre arts and packs it all into a single powerful performances. I can assure you, the transport and ticket money would be well spent if you manage to catch The Hound of the Baskervilles!
The Hound of the Baskervilles plays at The Lowry’s Quays Theatre until the 5th of February before continuing its UK tour throughout February.