Through October 27
THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES Festival Theatre/Shaw Festival
Strong set, although the computer stuff wasnít working right.
Fine Sherlock Holmes in Damien Atkins.
Just off a vast grassy field outside the Festival Theatre, life returns to the Great Grimpen Mire, Dartmoor and the giant, howling hound in ďThe Hound of the Baskervilles.Ē
This is one of Arthur Conan Doyleís greatest novels of the sage of Baker Street.
Itís a complicated, twisted tale of wealth, title, murder and that damned dog.
Conan Doyle wrote this novel as he decided to obey public sentiment and recover Holmes from the Reichenbach Falls.
The Baskervilles are rich, aristocratic and cursed, at least thatís the common peopleís view of what went wrong on the Moor.
Dr. Mortimer (Graeme Somerville) comes to Holmes about strange events with the Baskervilles, especially involving the latest heir to the title, Sir Henry (Hank to his friends in Alberta), who has just arrived to see the old family place.
The events twist and turn as Dr. Watson (Ric Reid) meets the staff and the neighbors and hears the hound, at least hears something which sounds like a dog.
Each day he reports to Holmes who is in London on another case.
Much of this twists around an escaped murderer from the nearby Princetown prison, who is somewhere still on the moor.
No one seems to know why he hasnít fled.
Hank Baskerville arrives and doesnít believe everything he hears or sees.
He does fall in love quickly with a neighbor, Beryl Stapleton (Natasha Mumba), sister of an entomologist who works on the moor.
What Conan Doyle did and stage adapters R. Hamilton Wright and David Pichette have done is to never give away what is really going on, although if you have read the book you know where itís going.
Set Designer Dana Osborne and projection designer Jamie Nesbitt and the stage crew keep it moving rapidly, especially with the massive props of boulder areas on the moor.
Since itís no plot giveaway, Holmes is really there and the hound is real and genealogy is a wonderful tool.
Director Craig Hall is working with some of the Shaw Festivalís best, even with performers like Patrick Galligan in the smaller role of Barrymore and Claire Jullien as Mrs. Hudson and Mrs. Barrrymore.
The show could have been much shorter, although my partnerís suggestion the script could have been cut by a half-hour seems extreme.
However, that might have allowed the two intermissions to be cut to one.
What Conan Doyle did was to create a story of the dangers of wealth and inheritance.
The key to this and so many other Holmes stories was the quest to study the situation, to scientifically investigate whatís going on.
Here, investigation solves a series of mysteries.
This is all held together by Atkins as the worldís first consulting detective and a few other people, also.
Kristopher Bowmanís Hank Baskerville isnít bad either.
ďThe Hound of the BaskervillesĒ is a familiar story and given a lavish production at the Shaw.
Itís pretty good but could have been better.
Still, itís such a great story.
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