A little trip across the border today to Derbyshire and one of the most gorgeous theatres I know, the Buxton Opera House, to see the Oldham Coliseum / Imitating the Dog touring production of The Hound of the Baskervilles.
This was a very cleverly designed production. A simple set with minimal stage furniture, was transformed into the various settings by the innovative use of digital back projection, meaning the action could move seamlessly between the many locations. This, combined with atmospheric lighting, and excellent sound, together with sharp performances from the cast, ramped up the tension brilliantly, whilst never detracting from the action.
The production stuck to the original story, but the staging gave it a modern, almost filmic slant. There was even a ‘pre-credits’ sequence that quickly established the tone of the piece. I enjoyed the way the projection and use of the simple set allowed different locations to be immediately established. However, the design didn’t limit itself to straight scenery, I loved the sections with the Laura Lyons character, a typist, where the original text was appearing to be typed across the set, and then falling and fading, and the billiards scene used the technology in a fun way. The sound was designed well, and I think there may have been an element of surround sound in there (either that or someone snuck a very large dog into the auditorium for one scene!)
Whilst the technology and staging was great, this never overshadowed the performances. Gwynfor Jones and Leigh Symonds as Holmes and Watson were a good pairing, with just the right mix of seriousness and humour. There were just three other cast members, Amy Ewbank, Steven O’Neill and Robin Simpson playing all the other characters and this worked really well.
The only disappointing thing in the whole performance was the size of the audience, I have never seen the Opera House so empty. It was a matinee performance and I can only hope that the evening shows were better attended as this production deserved to be packed out. People of Buxton, you missed an absolute treat.