SURREY — Ten years after a British duo spoofed a beloved Sherlock Holmes story for a London stage, the hit script makes its way to Surrey in the hands of Royal Canadian Theatre Company.
The comedy-mystery The Hound of the Baskervilles, adapted from the Conan Doyle original by Steven Canny and John Nicholson, plays four dates at Surrey Arts Centre’s main stage starting Thursday, Oct. 5, to open a five-theatre tour of Metro Vancouver.
“The best way I can describe it is almost like Vaudeville meets Monty Python meets Conan Doyle,” explained Ellie King, the show’s director. “There’s a lot of clown in it, too. It’s really silly, way over the top, hysterical.”
The production features just three “very talented, and very funny, actors – plus a wandering fireplace – playing all the roles in the story, and is guaranteed to have you laughing out loud,” King added.
In this script, Sir Charles Baskerville has died of a heart attack. A Canadian by the name of Sir Henry Baskerville is the only heir to his fortune, and has arrived in London. Meanwhile, a beast in the shape of a dog has been seen on dark, desolate Dartmoor and, according to the curse laid on the family, it will kill any member of the Baskerville family it happens upon.
Enter Holmes (played as a French Canadian) and Watson, who aim to save Sir Henry and solve the mystery. Some odd characters are on the scene, including the butler and his wife, the beautiful Cecile, her ominous brother Stapleton and a strange local hermit.
The two-hour play kicks off Royal Canadian’s three-show season at Surrey Arts Centre, where the company will also stage the panto Sinbad, The Pirate and the Dinosaur in December and Funny Money in mid-March.
Rehearsals for The Hound of the Baskervilles have taken place in Whalley at 10660 City Parkway, the new studio it shares with StreetRich Hip-Hop Society. The former auto garage was alive with British-style humour when the Now-Leader visited during a photo-shoot session last Thursday evening (Sept. 21), with actors Michael Charrois, Jonathan Mason and Steven Weller in costume. Also part of the action is stage manager Stephanie Bruce.
“It’s partly a remount for us, because we’re the only people in Western Canada who own the rights (to The Hound of the Baskervilles),” King noted.
“This is the British hit version, whereas the one another company did last year (Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery, at Surrey Arts Centre in October of 2016) was the American version. It’s a completely different script.”
Rehearsing a show at the recently opened City Parkway studio for the first time “is just wonderful,” King raved.
“I can’t even put it into words,” she started. “Painting, building (sets) in our shop – you’ve seen our shop, right? It’s amazing. Having light, having warmth, having a place we can lock up, with cabinets that we can put stuff in, having a paint sink, being able to see what we do – there are no words to describe how amazingly wonderful this is. It’s kind of like we were lost at sea for years, and then suddenly boom, we’re in port and it’s all nice and somebody’s giving us a rum punch,” she said with a laugh. “That’s what it’s like here.”
Royal Canadian has wanted to stage a Sherlock Holmes story for some time, King said, but the company couldn’t find an appropriate script to do, until The Hound of the Baskervilles became available.
“There was a really good one written in the 1920s but it was too, too big – there was no way we could do it,” she explained. “It had a cast of, I don’t know, 50 people or something ridiculous, so there was no way we could do it. And then I came across this script, and not only is it hysterically funny, it’s fairly close to the actual story of The Hound of the Baskervilles. So if you know that story, you’ll see bits and go, ‘Oh yeah, right, that’s what happened because this and that happened, and I remember that.’
“So that makes it also very good for schools, if they’re studying English Lit, if they’re doing drama, it’s a fit,” King added. “The acting is amazing, and you’ll see how crazy it is. It’s a really strong tour de force, and for anybody into theatre and into challenging theatre, this is a very challenging piece – probably the most challenging I’ve directed – not from the character studies and the text and everything else, but the staging, just making the thing work. There’s so much going on, you’ll see.”
• The Hound of the Baskervilles plays Surrey Arts Centre at 7:30 p.m. nightly from Oct. 5 to 7, with a 3:30 p.m. matinee on Saturday, Oct. 7. For details, call the box office at 604-501-5566 or visit tickets.surrey.ca. Dress-preview tickets are $8, general admission $28, seniors/students $20, and Family Four-pack $75. Show details can be found at rctheatreco.com.
The show will also be staged at Vancouver’s Metro Theatre (from Oct. 11 to 14), Anvil Theatre in New West (Oct. 20-21), ACT Arts Centre in Maple Ridge (Oct. 27-28) and Terry Fox Theatre in Coquitlam (Nov. 1 to 11).