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BWW Finland Review: HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLE at HKT makes us laugh till the curtain closes — literally!

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Baskervillen Koira went easily to my top 5 favorite shows of alltime. Read a thick analysis why it succeeded!

BWW Finland Review: HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLE at HKT makes us laugh till the curtain closes — literally!
Dr Watson by wonderful Eppu Salminen and Sherlock by effortlessly spotless Santeri Kinnunen

Approx reading time: 5½ minutes

Ken Ludwig's Baskerville: a Sherlock Holmes Mystery, adapted from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's book found its way to Helsinki City theatre's Arena Stage.

Even the theatre itself, to which I had my first visit to, was very fine for this classy comedy. Helsinki's City Theatre couldn't have chosen a better stage for it!

When we sat on our seats we heard a little teaser every now and then from the upcoming music of the performance (sound desing by Jaakko Virmavirta), which itself was very awesome and surely would bring anyone to the world of Sherlock. It was a little shame though that it left to be so short for a teaser. It always came with the safety infos, whereas I would have wanted to hear it let's say a minute before the show so we would know to get ready and silent.

This or that way, we didn't keep silent that evening. Dr. Watson alias Eppu Salminen commented after the show on Friday 17th that the audience was especially good and reactive that evening. I was very thankful to be there with them because in comedy the audiences' reaciton always plays a valid part in how well the show goes. I admit I myself tried my best with some raw, hardly censored reactions at the very front left. At least it seemed that Emilia Sinisalo reacted to my reactions in proper ways, sharing eye contact. To the French's show up I screamed for, mm-hm, it was me.

So, grab your top hats and let's dig into the analysis:

The performance was very top notch in various ways.

Team Spirit: the actors worked together very well and quite clearly had fun. That only was a joy to watch. Personally I don't mind actors trying to keep in their own laughs in comedies like this. The main thing is to keep honest and true to the audience, which I felt everyone did.

Script: This part is devoted to Ken Ludwig himself, let's hope he'll find this from here! I read from his page that he hadn't wrote in any scenic images so that every team has their chance to bring the story on stage through their own imagination, which I think is very gracious and correct. To comment on that here in Helsinki props were valid and in place and were also took out in a nifty way: there were cans on the floor, but afterwards a coat is laid on them and then when the coat is pulled away the cans come with it. I liked the fact that the mister Baskerville or the "headtitle" was explained and introduced quite straight away. Overall the script had a flow with just only flaw: the Swedish character stood a little off. Maybe it was very distinctive in the English original but in Finnish and to Finns it set a little different expectations and left to be a little unimportant. The boot thing could have been dealt with in some other way. Nevertheless my favorite scene remained to be the one where the one character was ripped of off their ancestors' looks so to speak... Loved it! Very imaginative and raw.

Accents and translation: A huge thank you to Reita Lounatvuori for the great translation where the text fit to the actors mouths and moreover to our ears. It was clear that actors understood the text and thus articulated in a way that we could understand and keep up with the storytelling. What it comes to accents (you may know I have 7 year history with them, both in Finnish and English) I also have to tip my hat to. I have to say all were at least decent - which is a good and rare to my ear - though my favorites remained to be Cockney-Stadi and Devon-Tampere. Why? Their vibes matched to the originals and were very recognizable. And finally a little bigger excecution and notion for the darn good 'mmmmurican (American) style by Sauli Suonpää. His n's, j's and l's were very distinctive especially in the first scene where he got to introduce himself. After that they were a little toned down I guess but overall he did a full character and believably so with all the details from his bow legs to the hat on his head.

The Characters: this includes the director Sakari Hokkanen, the three changing actors hilarious Mikko Virtanen, expressive Sauli Suonpää and competent Emilia Sinisalo. Also the clothing, the head of it being Nina Virkki and Tiina Sivonen, and of course theatre makeup, the head of it being Henri Karjalainen. Naturally everyone plays a part in this as actors need staging to hide into and lighting that distracts but to focus on the outer looks of them, the quality and end results were impressive and totally worth the trip to this show, everyone! And when I say the randomness, yet distinctiveness and clearness of them reminds me of Justimusfilms, the worshipped trio of characters, it's only a good thing! The actors also had very good technique. To give an example there was a scene where the reactions of a character were described and then the next instant they excecuted them. One could also do them in a way that wouldn't be believable, but they managed to do even the little things believably and with a focus (in whole I'm talking about the whole cast), which is not self-evident. So! A talented cast, what more can I say? And though I'm hyping up the chameleons, of course we need the root characters Salminen as Watson and Kinnunen as Sherlock who also did a marvelous job!

Flow and changes in genres: for this I mainly thank director Hokkanen. I loved the way how last lines of the scenes were used to pump up the transition between the scenes. Cartoon vibes in the "tappy tap" moment of the escape with the rolling chair, a detective videogame LA-noire vibes in many intense moments with lurking and gun-pointing and well, the sheer melodrama of the gloomy family was very self-conscious, honest, and thus it worked.

If there is one thing I would have changed it's the hound's timing! The prop work in this was also very good but I only would have wanted to see the hound a little more. I feel it's the main thing, the thing we waited for and saw it in action a little too little... But to talk about the scene itself there was nice working with so called "imagined reality" and how the actors handled the props. I feel like if the house in the background wouldn't have been touched it would have had remained as a part of the background set. But now when it was touched it became a prop and so placed a little perspective on the "rules" that played in that scene. Because when we saw the hound and Holmes stroking its fur we also grasped that the perspective is as absurd and somehow "invalid" as it was with the house. This was very nice thing to learn and grasp in action, personally!

There.

This performance holds so many bits that by themselves would bring a good show worth seeing and getting good rates. I am honest when I say I did not expect something bombastic as this and I am very proud of the team. On stage there was always something going on - of course with some moments of rest, which is good - and characters and details (like the little dog puppets) appear out of the blue, making you frown in laughter: WHAT You'll shout many times in your head - or to your brother sitting next to you who is as much ... hehe... discombobulated and thus entertained!

This show went easily to my top 5 of all shows I've ever seen.

Text: Rosanna Ilo Liuski
Photo: Jaakko Vuorenmaa

Baskervillen Koira arvio Helsingin Kaupunginteatteri


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