BWW Review: THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, Abney Park Cemetery
Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington becomes the Devonshire moor in 09 Lives' production of The Hound of the Baskervilles. Lil Warren directs the promenade show in the creepy setting, with only minimal lighting accompanying Holmes (Giorgio Galassi) and Watson (Gary Cain) as they try to solve perhaps their most notorious of cases. Arthur Conan Doyle himself (Angus Chisolm) is the evening's emcee; he pitches in with background information and backstories, leading the audience onto the next scene through tombstones and trees aided by facilitators with flashlights.
It's safe to say that the open-air venue - if it can be called that - is the true strength of the piece. Its inherent eerie vibe is heightened by Yvonne Gilbert's precise sound design, but not fully embraced: howls, creaks, and screams have the cemetery come alive in the pitch black of the night, to be either indulged by the suspense or drastically counterposed by the comedy of the script. Galassi is an energetic Sherlock: comparison might be the thief of joy, but he is a somewhat correct blend of two of the most famous 21st century Sherlocks, Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller.
His Watson holds perfect balance with Cain, who adds slight humour to the gloom and earns the crowd's favours in no time. Their characters come to the aid of Andrew Phipps's Baskerville, whose strident (sort of) Canadian accent leans onto the farcical side of the plot. Dan de la Mott is Mortimer and Stapleton - both flamboyantly funny and at times even too laughably creepy with the actor's impressive physical language - and Sarah Warren is his partner in crime.
The production takes place in one of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries after dark but it's not as chilling and spooky as it could be, with plenty of (and maybe too many) amusing occasions (a mention of honour for this goes to Chisolm, who's delightfully and perhaps inadvertently odd as the black-suited and top-hatted author). As a whole, the cast are tight knit in keeping the tone hesitant but it feels like the fundamental nature of the original material has been slightly lost in the progress.
This jumps out particularly in-between scenes when the participants are rushed from site to site instead of being given the chance to absorb the sinister silence that surrounds them. Besides this element, the concept works and the director plays with the natural and architectural elements of the space, showing Abney Park in a different light (or lack thereof) to welcome the autumn and Halloween season in charming Holmesian style.
Image credit: Terill