Saturday, March 8th, 2014 - ARENAarts

A BARKING mad comedy version of the Sherlock Holmes classic The Hound of the Baskervilles comes to the stage this autumn with three women playing 15 roles.

Written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and adapted by Steven Canny and John Nicholson, ARENAarts is bringing the show life at the Latvian Centre in Belmont under the direction of Simon James.

It tells the story Sir Charles Baskerville’s murder and the intrigues that surround the arrival of the manor’s new lord, Sir Henry.

As Sherlock Holmes and offsider Dr Watson dig deeper into the crime they discover all manner of strange characters, each with a motive and secret.

“Whereas the original story was a serious piece of literature, the stage adaptation certainly is not,” James said.

“It gets a gloriously funny and rather silly makeover, packed full of verbal humour, visual buffoonery, fast-paced changes and absolute lunacy.

“Whether audiences know much about Sherlock Holmes or not, they’ll certainly get more than a laugh or two out of how we present this classic story.

“Some Sherlock Holmes fans may frown at the thought of a comedy version of The Hound of the Baskervilles but we’re not ridiculing the characters nor the story – just having a lot of fun in the way the characters and story are presented.

“It's a very affectionate spoof of the world's greatest fictional detective.”

In terms of challenges, the original script had next to nothing in explanations of how to stage the production meaning James had to come up with many physical comedy ideas himself.

“By doing so, we’ve kept the flavour of the piece which sends up so many theatre techniques and conventions,” he said.

“There was nothing about how the quick costume and scene changes could or should be done so it was a matter of coming up with a lot of logistical things to make each scene work and flow seamlessly from one to the next.”

Currently artistic director of ARENAarts, where he has a 25-year association, James has written and directed more than 50 plays and has worked with the Old Mill, Stirling, Hayman and Pocket Theatres, Canning Players, Theatre-go-round, Curtain Up Drama Group and Constable Care over the past 30 years while also appearing in numerous theatre-in-education productions.

Among his acting credits are She Stoops To Conquer, The Bewitched, The Recycling Rabbit, A Christmas Carol, It’s A Mad World My Masters and Northanger Abbey while his directing credits include Antigone, You're A Good Man Charlie Brown, Doctor Who: Hellblossom, Jake's Women, We Happy Few, The Miracle Worker, All The King's Women and several Terry Pratchett plays.

James has been named best director at Dramafest twice, the annual state drama festival, for The Bear and When Elvis Met Nixon and has been recognised for best set design at the 2012 Finley Awards for The Miracle Worker and the 2013 Hills Festival of Theatre for The Bald Prima Donna.

As a storyteller, he also has 21 years’ experience performing The Storykeeper during Children's Book Week, as well as Clay Tales – storytelling and pottery workshops for people with disabilities.

The Hound of the Baskervilles appealed because it was a hilarious play to read with its mix of verbal and physical humour and the potential to break down some theatre conventions and make fun of them,” James said.

“The actors break out of character to address the audience, the stage manager wanders about setting up scenes oblivious to what’s going on, costumes are clothes thrown over the top of other clothes, props appear from nowhere and sound effects pop in and out at will.

“As a fan of Sherlock Holmes mysteries, it was great to take something I like and give it a comic outing.

“It's part Monty Python in presentation, part The Goon Show and part Benny Hill – but all entertainment.”

The Hound of the Baskervilles plays at 8pm March 21, 22, 28, 29, April 3, 4 and 5 with 2pm matinees March 23 and 30.

Tickets are $20, $16 concession or $15 each for groups of 10 or more – book on (08) 9497 5140 or email [email protected].au.

The Latvian Centre is located at 60 Cleaver Terrace, Belmont (off Belmont Avenue).



hound001: Director Simon James, left, with The Hound of the Baskervilles cast members Amanda Watson (Sherlock Holmes) and Rachael Maher (Sir Henry Baskerville) and Jane Sherwood (stage manager).

hound005: Amanda Watson, left is Sherlock Holmes and Bree Vreedenburgh is Dr Watson in a comedy version of The Hound of the Baskervilles.

hound12: Sherlock Holmes (Amanda Watson) and Sir Henry Baskerville (Rachael Maher) find themselves in a barking mad version of The Hound of the Baskervilles this autumn.

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ARENAarts is an independent, West Australian, not-for-profit arts organisation producing and supporting such projects as professional co-op shows and community theatre, as well as theatre-for-schools productions.

Our work includes such things as Wyrd Sisters, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Santa's Space Christmas, Doctor Who: Hellblossom, Northanger Abbey and The Storykeeper.

We aim to provide creative opportunities in the arts to encourage the growth of local, grassroots arts projects and to create works to reach new and existing audiences.

Since 1988, we have produced more than 155 arts projects, which have had more than 4300 performances for an audience in excess of 1 million.

ARENAarts community theatre productions are completely run by volunteers, from the actors to the director, as well as everyone involved behind the scenes. The productions are held at a variety of venues all across the Perth metropolitan area. They are tremendous fun and a great way to learn skills and make friends. Great for those just starting out in the industry as well as seasoned performers.

ARENAarts co-op productions are the perfect opportunity for anyone wishing to put on a professional production but are in need of funding, set and props and/or mentorship.

ARENAarts theatre-for-schools program offers touring educational productions that cater for junior to upper primary children. Productions include the very successful The Storykeeper which is celebrating its 22nd anniversary this year.

Simon James
M: 0402 592 964


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