There were many reasons why I wanted to love this production. Firstly it brings back David Leonard to York Theatre Royal where traditionally he is only seen at Christmas playing the villain to Berwick Kaler’s panto dame. Secondly, under the assured hand of artistic director Damian Cruden, the venue has carved out a bit of a niche for staging inventive summer shows when most other theatres go dark.
Sadly, this year’s production seems to be suffering from an identity crisis and even the usually sublime Leonard looks a little confused. With The Hound of the Baskervilles the best known of all Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, Cruden understandably decided to take a fresh look at the tale, throwing pretty much everything at this production.
Penned by Richard Hurford, the whodunit is presented by a travelling Victorian theatre company. There’s shadow puppetry, various music hall diversions and a Dr Watson who sports both a moustache and a dress.
The result is part musical, part farce, part spoof, but sadly the sum is not greater than its parts. There is no doubting the talent on stage. Joanna Holden is particularly impressive as Holmes’s housekeeper Mrs Hudson and half a dozen other parts. Sadly not even she can provide the necessary glue to hold the show together.
Still, there are plenty of chuckles from an audience clearly enjoying having one of their favourite sons back home and with York part way through another busy summer, it will undoubtedly appeal to families looking to while away a few hours.
To August 27.