Direction : Akash Khurana
Cast : Arghya Lahiri, Nadir Khan, Vivek Madan


Johnson Thomas


The original Sherlock Holmes mystery set in 1889, THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES revolves around a curse involving an allegedly demonic hound that has supposedly been responsible for the death of several heirs of the ancient Baskerville estate set in Dartmoor within the moors of Devonshire -- starting with Sir Hugo Baskerville in the mid-17th century. Holmes and Watson are investigating the attempted murder of Sir Henry Baskerville, aiming to prevent it from happening. Since Hugo, there are claims that the Baskervilles have been pursued by the canine monster prowling the moors of Devonshire.

This Aadyam-produced play (digital performance under review) is not the direct adaptation of the most famous Arthur Conan Doyle authored Sherlock Holmes mystery. It's Akash Khurana's rendition of Steven Canny and John Nicholson's farcical adaption. It opens on a dark night with a man running for his life followed by a death most mysterious. Surely Sherlock Holmes (Vivek Madan), and his friend Dr Watson ( Arghya Lahiri) will be able to solve this crime...? But wait... Stepping out from that mood and moment, the actors apparently seem to remember that they still haven't introduced the cast of characters and credits. It all seems a little confused and absurd, and in the opening melee we even see Sir Henry Baskerville (Nadir Khan) lose his trousers! Never fear though. There's a method to this madness. The slapstick is intended to bring in the laughs and for most of its run, the amusement continues to spring forth in ticklish earnest. So much so that we barely want to get cracking on the whodunit. This is a farce of three actors - out of which two, Vivek and Nadir play multiple roles and quite handsomely too. There's even talk claiming Holmes is only the second best detective - which of course doesn't amuse the master detective much. The actors do their bit to infuse energy and craft into the smartly contrived and choreographed bumbling about.

The opening of the second half involves reacquainting the audience with what transpired in the first. It's a smartly inventive runabout which reminds those who missed out (due to any technical or other glitches) - on what events took place before the halftime bell and the role of each character in that fast-tracked sequence of events. Holmes has assigned Dr Watson as Sir Henry's escort on the way to Dartmoor while he apparently stays back and tries to resolve the case from that end. Everything that transpires thereafter seems disastrous and Holmes appears more than likely to end up losing his preeminent position in the legion of best detectives. Fortunately for him, that's not ordained here. The jugglery of characters and props is so efficiently done that we can only admire the mastery on display here. While the wit and humour doesn't come through as efficiently as the jumbled up slapstick, it certainly sends-up enough quips and asides to keep the audience entertained and in good spirits. The lights, the sound, the background score, sets and production design is of high standard. This production may well be replicating what's already been seen and performed but that doesn't take anything away from the artistic integrity of this superbly orchestrated live digitised performance.

*Johnson Thomas is an independent critic and columnist.

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