SHERLOCK HOLMES MEETS MONTY PYTHON!
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most celebrated Sherlock Holmes story gets a gloriously funny makeover in this cheeky spoof.
When Sir Charles Baskerville is found dead on his estate, with a look of terror still etched on his face and the paw prints of a gigantic hound beside his body, the great detective Sherlock Holmes is summoned from Baker Street, with Dr. Watson in tow, to unravel the mysteries surrounding his death and investigate the ancient curse of the Hound of the Baskervilles.
If you enjoy Abbott and Costello, the Marx Brothers, Monty Python, or even just a zany night of entertainment, you’ll love this hysterical farce. Three actors take on more than twenty roles including Holmes, Dr. Watson, and themselves as they hilariously retell the story of the classic thriller with the killer dog!
The Hound of the Baskervilles
By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Adapted by Steven Canny and John Nickolson
Directed by Mark Shanahan
Executive Producers Denise Bessette Dan Foster Olivia Sklar
April 28- May 13, 2017
Whippoorwill Hall Theatre
North Castle Library
RELEASE THE HOUND! Sherlock On Stage
“The best way of successfully acting a part is to be it,” stated Sherlock Holmes. Interesting, The Great Detective made this comment to Dr. Watson in a case appropriately titled, The Case of The Dying Detective. Perhaps, even Holmes had learned the lesson every good actor knows, that “dying is easy, comedy is hard!”
Tonight, we celebrate both Sherlock Holmes and the magic of the theatre in John Nicholson and Stephen Canny’s wonderful rendition of Arthur Conan Doyle’s masterpiece, The Hound of the Baskervilles! Perhaps no single character in history has enjoyed more success, recognition and adulation than Doyle’s invention, Sherlock Holmes. And just as each new generation of readers has discovered Doyle’s books, so too have actors and audiences reinterpreted and embraced the character with regularity. Holmes has had a long and illustrious relationship with the theatre, starting with the character’s own propensity for a little drama now and then.
To be sure, in Doyle’s original works, Holmes himself was an excellent actor, often donning disguises to ferret out clues, fooling even his closest confident and most critical audience, Dr. Watson. Watson, playing the role of critic, gave him glowing reviews, stating “It was not merely that Holmes changed his costume. His expression, his manner, his very soul seemed to vary with every fresh part that he assumed.” One client, noting Holmes’ propensity for disguises, noted that “what the law had gained, the stage had lost,” when Holmes took up his role as detective. Even a Scotland Yard detective offered a glowing notice of Holmes’ stage craft in The Sign of Four, noting, “You’d have made an actor, and a rare one!”
Surely, even the casual reader must notice Holmes, a penchant for drama, given to bouts of sulking depression and adrenalin highs whenever a case came along. And when Holmes had become so unbearably popular that a bored Doyle decided to kill off his creation, plunging him over the Reichenbach Falls in 1893, he was sure to make certain Holmes suffered an “offstage death.” Not surprisingly, in 1903, Doyle brought Holmes back to life with a revelation that Holmes had faked his demise. After all, doesn’t ever good actor love to play a juicy death scene? Surely, it is no coincidence that Doyle’s very last Sherlock Holmes tale was titled His Last Bow!
But if Holmes often succumbed to the acting bug, it may be stated the actors have often returned the favor. The first actor to portray Holmes on the stage was the American matinee idol, William Gillette, who had campaigned to play the role but wanted a love story added to his play. He sent a telegram to Doyle, asking “May I marry Holmes?” to which the indifferent author replied, “You may marry or murder or do what you like with him.” Upon their first meeting, when Doyle saw Gillette step off the train in full Holmes costume, even the author was impressed that the actor looked like the very living image of his creation. Gillette went on to great fame in the play Sherlock Holmes, reviving it several times throughout his career.
It was Gillette who cemented many of the iconic images we associate with Holmes. While the deerstalker and Inverness cape are barely alluded to in Doyle’s books, the actor wore both onstage, creating Holmes’ definitive look in popular culture for all time. Likewise, he added the Meerschaum pipe, believing it easier to speak lines with a curved pipe rather than a straight one. As the author of the play, he introduced the line “elementary, my dear fellow,” which was to become “elementary, my dear Watson,” in the hands of actor Clive Brook, the first screen Holmes of the talkies, although the line never appears in the books.
Subsequent generations have adopted their own definitive version of Holmes. Basil Rathbone was a no-nonsense Holmes lending his talents as the Detective during World War II, trading deerstalker for fedora and defeating Nazis. Peter Cushing was a peckish, hawk-like Holmes in the 50’s and 60’s and Jeremy Brett arrived with beloved take—Holmes as imperious schoolmaster—in a 1980’s TV series. Along the way, he has been lampooned by the likes of Michael Caine, Dudley Moore and Peter Cook, and George C. Scott.
These days, it seems like Holmes is everywhere, enjoying a huge resurgence in popularity. Robert Downey Jr. has portrayed him as a sort of superhero at the multiplex and Holmes is the subject of not one, but two popular television series: CBS’s Elementary and the BBC’s wildly popular Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
But any good actor at some point must go up against playing Holmes, the detective’s greatest adversary. No, not Professor Moriarty. Perhaps the best loved Holmes tale of all pits Sherlock against… a dog. And not just any dog, a supernatural, glowing, “great black beast! Larger than any hound that has ever lived!” The Hound of the Baskervilles was published in 1901, during the time of Holmes’ supposed “death” but set sometime in the past. Doyle threw in everything but the kitchen sink to create one of the most cherished and recognized titles in publishing. Hound offers Holmes and Watson in classic form, encountering a Gothic mystery, confounding clues (a missing shoe! The game is afoot?), a love story, a mysterious setting, and an ingenious criminal with a most bizarre and, one might say, convoluted murder plan. Over the years the tale has been adapted countless times for stage and screen.
John Nicholson and Stephen Canny’s play celebrates the mutual admiration between Holmes and the theatre in their comic rendition of the tale. As members of the British theatrical troupe, Peepolykus, they have delivered a joyful love letter to the theatre, crafting a play about actors who accomplish the impossible using only their imagination, skill, and bravery. With a company of three, our actors take on every role in Doyle’s classic and stay remarkably true to the plot of Hound of the Baskervilles. And, of course, Holmes gets to don a disguise or two.
For actors, there is no greater mystery to solve than what makes a play work at each performance. Every night as the curtain goes up; there is a new audience, a new adventure to undertake. We invite you to settle in to your seat at The Hudson Stage Company and join us for a fantastic tale of cunning, mystery, detection… and the love of the theatre. —MARK SHANAHAN