Reviewed by Cath Joyce
When we last visited the Octagon Theatre, Bolton, in June 2018 they were celebrating their 50th anniversary with a transformation of the theatre to make it welcoming, accessible and open for audiences and artists for another 50 years to come. The work was due to be completed in summer 2020 but sadly Covid delayed the reopening. I’ve really missed visiting the theatre over the last 18 months so it was so lovely to finally return to the Octagon Theatre to see not only the transformation of the building – which really is impressive – but also a live performance, the classic Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story, The Hound of the Baskervilles.
A trip to the theatre is now a little different due to social distancing, but from the minute we arrived at the theatre we felt that the staff had done everything possible to make the audience feel safe. We were greeted at the door by a friendly member of staff who explained the social distancing measures and asked us to scan the Track and Trace QR code. Once inside the theatre many seats had labels on to indicate that they weren’t to be used, the sad fact being that The Octagon loses £500 per month for every seat they can’t use.
The Hound of the Baskervilles is one of the most well known Sherlock Holmes stories. I remember watching the 1939 film starring Basil Rathbone, most probably during the long summer holidays on BBC2 and really enjoying it. Steven Canny and John Nicholson have cleverly adapted the classic story into a wonderfully funny, fast paced tale with all the actors playing a multitude of roles from Sherlock and Dr. Watson to local yokels – all subtly different and with a multitude of different accents (but not Canadian)! I must confess I was curious how just three actors were going to tell the story on the stage of the Octagon but with plenty of slick costume changes it worked surprisingly well.
All three actors were brilliant, we’ve seen Polly Lister in a couple of plays before so knew she would add her unique style and humour to her performance. Playing Sir Henry Baskerville she had a fantastic rapport with both Reuben Johnson (Sherlock Holmes) and Simon Kane (Dr. Watson). Simon was brilliantly cast as the 19th century companion and Reuben was excellent as the famous detective and slipped easily into his other roles, I especially enjoyed his portrayal of the flirtatious Miss Cecile Stapleton!
The story was, of course, great but the way that it was adapted absolutely made the night.
The set was very impressive with a backdrop of Baskerville Hall standing solitary on the moor, the foggy atmosphere and cool ventilation was very effective and transported us from the theatre in Bolton to the cold, loneliness of Dartmoor. Props were fairly minimal but well used, we thought that the bed scene was hilarious, and combined with well timed lighting it worked really well.
We, along with the rest of the audience were in stitches throughout the performance, the play is packed full of one liners and visual comedy and the Twitter reference at the start of the second half was fantastic – I won’t spoil the plot but it really was excellent.
We had a great night out and it was so good to be back at the theatre again. This is a real laugh out loud show and definitely worth seeing.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Tickets cost from £15
The Hound of the Baskervilles is at Octagon Theatre, Bolton until the 7th August
For more information or to book tickets visit https://octagonbolton.co.uk/ or call the box office on 01204 520661