Murder, moors, a dour detective and a big black beast: not the obvious ingredients for a summer show for families. But in life, as in a good murder mystery, all is not as it seems. From the moment the cast first burst onto stage, it’s clear that this is a romp. It’s a wonderfully silly Victorian-style gallop through one of Conan Doyle’s finest tales, complete with a brilliant musical score (played, impressively, by the actors themselves), the occasional hilarious dance and a script that had the audience giggling all the way to the curtain call.
If I were a decent detective, I’d have spotted the clues it was going to be a crowd-pleaser. The cast, for one, is fantastic. David Leonard – everyone’s favourite pantomime baddie – is spot-on as Sherlock Holmes and, later, side-splitting as the Lurch-like Mr Dimmell. His sidekick Dr Watson, played by Elexi Walker, is fantastic: funny, energetic and so convincing that you completely forget that Watson is usually played by a man. The rest of the cast is outstanding too – even the most fleeting of characters is brought to life and, most often, for laughs. The set is wonderful too, as is the use of shadow puppetry.
There’s very little of the dark, foreboding moors about this show – it’s a very entertaining, high-octane production that has many of the hallmarks of pantomime (and we mean that as a compliment). Younger children would struggle to keep up with the plot, but after an interval gin and tonic, we slightly lost the thread too. There’s a lot for older children to enjoy, from the live music to silly jokes and trying to guess the culprit. But ultimately when a show is as fun as this, it’s a case of: whodunnit? Who cares!
Sherlock Holmes The Hound of the Baskervilles runs at York Theatre Royal until 27th August 2016