Paul T Davies reviews Baskerville!, Ken Ludwig’s spoof of the classic Sherlock Holmes tale now playing at the Mercury Theatre Colchester.
Mercury Theatre, Colchester.
5 August 2021
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It’s unusual for a production review to begin by praising the building it’s in, but the Mercury Theatre has risen, and in some style! The gorgeous foyer is welcoming, the food is wonderful, (this venue is now more than a theatre), the community choir were in the building, and the press night audience were buzzing with excitement. Would the first show since the refurbishment and pandemic live up to the high standard set by the vanilla cheesecake?
The answer is, it does and then some! Ken Ludvig’s zany, affectionate spoof of the Sherlock Holmes classic is two hours of inspired silliness, and here it is performed by a cast of comic timing genius. It’s the perfect choice to welcome audiences back after the tough times, and Ryan McBryde’s inspired direction rings every comic beat and turn from the script and cast, it’s a joy from beginning to end. Richard Ede is a perfect Holmes, capturing his narcissism well, but sending the role up beautifully. Eric Stroud, as Doctor Watson, has the tough job of carrying most of the exposition of the plot, and does it brilliantly. But if they work hard, we then come to those listed as Actor 1,2 and 3. They play all the remaining parts between them, somewhere in the region of 50 roles, and they act their socks off, in fact their socks may be only clothing they don’t change! Naomi Petersen, taking over at short notice, is brilliant, matched by the hilarious Marc Pickering and Phil Yarrow, and one of the truisms of theatre is that if the cast are enjoying themselves, then the audience will, and this ensemble have a ball. So many highlights include the hilarious Barrymore’s, butterfly hunting Stapleton, the Irregulars, and the Tommy Cooper “split costume” routine gets a welcome appearance!
The design by Amy James Cook superbly works with the cast, the projections moving in time with them from location to location and chase to chase. As the cast begin to riff on quick costume changes and sound effects, the laughs double, and this is excellent fun for all the family. With my favourite part being the “Previously on Baskerville” recap, it’s time to switch off your box sets and come back to this jewel of a theatre. Welcome back Mercury!
Until 22 August 2021