Saturday Drama on BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4, 7 July 2012
Recorded live at Queen Elizabeth's Hospital School Theatre, Bristol,
this version of Conan Doyle's classic tale sat squarely within the tradition of classic spoofs, epitomized
by Patrick Barlow's long-comedy hit The Thirty-Nine Steps. Holmes (Javier Marzan) was played as a Spanish grandee,
Watson (John Nicholson) as a well-meaning booby with homosexual tendencies, Sir Henry Baskerville as a Canadian toff speaking
in an English accent (because he could not do a Canadian one).
Under Alison Hindell's direction, the five-person cast obviously enjoyed themselves,
speaking a variety of accents, and relishing the non sequiturs in Canny and Nicholson's script. They made much of the latent
absurdities of the Conan Doyle text, in which Holmes solves the case by virtue of far-fetched deducation and improbable coincidences.
There were also frequent innuendoes - I especially enjoyed one moment where Watson was told to grab on to someone's "crutch"
to extricate himself from the Dartmoor swamp. There followed a yell of pain, with the character exclaiming: "I said CRUTCH!!"
Conan Doyle's stories work best when they are performed tongue-in-cheek: Basil Rathbone
and Nigel Bruce made a habit of this in the Twentieth Century-Fox/ Universal cycle of films of the 1930s and 1940s. Although
these films were designed as propaganda, the two actors played the roles with a twinkle in their eyes, as if they were aware
of the implausibilities of the scripts. This is what made them so memorable. Nicholson and Canny's Hound of the Baskervilles
was entertaining enough, but I felt that it might have worked better if it had been played a little less for laughs.