I grew up very close to Abney Park Cemetary. In fact, this wasn’t the first time I had been there at night, as we used to sneak in as silly teenagers to drink vodka and cider sat on the war memorial. So as we moved around the Cemetary in the dark, there was a certain amount of nostalgia built in for me. However, I am not here to review my teenage memories (2 stars – nothing special) so I have tried not to let that nostalgia seep into my review of Hound of the Baskervilles.
This is a fun, lighthearted experience. The chance to walk around such an impressive and gothic space at night would have been hard to pass up, and the cemetery and abandoned chappel make a wonderful stand-in for the moors of the book.
The performers have all adopted quite a mannered approach to the dialogue and at first, I found that quite hard to attune to. It definitely took some getting used to. However, given they were competing with a range of outdoor sounds (and we were lucky enough to be there without rain, but I imagine even a light shower in the trees of Abney Park would be extremely loud) it actually makes sense as both a practical and artistic choice, and once you settle in to it, you stop noticing and it adds to the atmosphere and flavour of the show.
This is promenade theatre, which means that we walked from scene to scene led usually by Conan Doyle himself who would keep the plot ticking along at just the right pace. The show is around 90 minutes and it felt neither padded nor stretched. Though the penultimate scene with the hound felt a little odd – partly because – for obvious logistical reasons – the action was largely hidden from the audience.
The show could have done – perhaps – with a little more fright in it. There were moments of real tension, but had they added a few more rustles from bushes behind us, slightly louder noises or a touch more eldritch lighting I think these could have been heightened.
But overall this was an enjoyable experience which combines its extraordinary location and the classic storytelling well and it charms as much as it entertains.