Hound of the Baskervilles in Abney Park Cemetery

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It was a dark but thankfully not stormy night, as I headed to Abney Park Cemetery for an Outside Theatre production of 09 Lives’ The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Running Tuesdays – Sundays (8pm) until 29th September, this atmospheric and hugely entertaining production is well worth catching.  The setting is perfect for this tale of murder, riddled with superstition and the belief in things that go bump in the night (I really need to check out Abney Park Cemetery in the day time, as could only get a dark, romantic sense of its beauty at night).

It is a promenade performance, so comfortable shoes are a must, and a coat highly recommended, as despite the warm days, there is a chill creeping in of an evening, which only serves to heighten the atmosphere. Warm and balmy simply wouldn’t set the right tone.

Arriving at Abney Park Cemetery you are greeted by friendly volunteers who give you the health and safety talk, and provide additional lighting as we walk from scene to scene.  However our main guide of the night is Conan Doyle himself, played with great charm and energy by Angus Chisholm. Having warned us of the dangers ahead, Conan Doyle leads us scene by scene through the dark cemetery.

Director Lil Warren focuses on the most important elements needed to drive the story forward at an engaging pace, knowing when to add humour or drama to keep the audience entertained, creating a wonderfully balanced and evocative piece.  The fact that she also literally helps guide us on the night, is a definite bonus. Yvonne Gilbert’s deft and clever sound design adds drama to the tale, from the cracking of branches to the howls of the hound, timed perfectly to build tension at key moments.

The cast are clearly relishing the comic elements of the production and bring to life their various characters with great conviction.  The chemistry between Andrew Phipp’s Baskerville and Gary Cain’s Watson is fabulous to watch, both bumblers in their own way at the mercy of both a killer and the detective hunting him.  Giorgio Galassi gives us a lyrical and mercurial Holmes, determined to catch his man, but unwilling to share his plan with those instrumental to it. Sarah Warren shifts brilliantly between the sobbing Mrs Barrymore and the seductive Beryl Stapleton.  While Dan de la Mott transforms from the alarmed country Doctor Mortimer and into the flamboyant, butterfly net wielding Stapleton.

This is an ambitious outdoor promenade production and it certainly delivers. It is packed full of so many wonderful little touches that work together to create a truly entertaining night out. I won’t dwell on my favourites as I don’t do spoilers.

You have until 29th September to catch The Hound of the Baskervilles, so I’d recommend dusting off your walking shoes and heading to Abney Park Cemetery one of these dark September nights, to enjoy an evening filled with the darkest of deeds.

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