The latest production from the Fired Up Theatre company, who have produced a string of recent successes including productions of The Wall, Quadrophenia ,and The Fell Walker ,is Hound of the Baskervilles. Deep in darkest Dartmoor, stands Baskerville Hall, a grisly ‘Usher-esque’ house of secrets and spooky goings-on with a cellar full of mayhem and murder and outside, beyond its grounds, the village of Grimpon, encounters eerie, cacophonic howling, repeatedly filling the Devonshire night air. Can the World’s greatest detective Mr Sherlock Holmes unravel the clues to a series of satanic deaths?
Join Holmes, Dr Watson, and Mrs Hudson gather at Baskerville Hall as the events unfold. Fired Up Theatre, the Staffordshire based risk taking ensemble, return to the Lichfield Garrick Studio with two nights of theatre for Sherlock Holmes aficionados. This new script written by Mal Dewhirst and Simon Quinn, will include shadow theatre, projections and original music to complement the live action.
I caught up with co -writer Mal Dewhirst for an exclusive insight into the production:
Q. This seems a departure from previous productions, what drew you to this story?
I would like to think that all Fired Up Theatre’s productions are a departure to what we have done before. I guess with this production, the fact that it is a well-known story that has been covered before especially in the medium of film, drew my fellow writer and director, Simon Quinn, to try and do something different with the story but at the same time being true to Conan Doyle’s original intent.
Q. What appeals to you about the original author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?
Firstly his characters, they have a rich depth that often is only hinted and therefore allows us to explore those depths in our own interpretation. Secondly his plots, often riddled with miss-direction but delivered in plain sight, that whilst Holmes unravels and reveals the motives, they are there for the reader to piece together.
Q. The story was originally written in serialised form in London magazine The Strand, how difficult was it to bring it to the stage?
How do you deliver the Hound to the stage without having a violent rabid dog live on stage? We chose to use shadow theatre, which filmed and will show as projections. Some of these are delivered as tongue in cheek representations which have some elements of humour within them. Shadow theatre is a new departure for us and to a certain extent an experiment, from which we learnt a lot that we can improve upon in the future.
Q. Originally written in 1902, over a century ago, what is the enduring appeal of the story? How well has it survived the past century?
It has survived the past century really well, partly because of the many filmed versions that keep it in the consciousness of audiences.
This is mainly due to the great detective Sherlock Holmes, he is one of Britain’s endearing detectives, a genius character that is often brusque and aloof but also with his own flaws, an odd sort of hero but a hero never-the-less. Characters such as Jonathan Creek and Doc Martin have the same sort of traits.
The plots of the Hound of the Baskervilles are still valid today, they do not use technology or beliefs that would age it, delivering it as 21st century piece would build on what was already written, it therefore provides for a wonderful canvas for a new production.
Can I just add that our version is set in the age of the book, late Victorian/Edwardian.
Q. In 1999, it was listed as the top Holmes novel, why do you think that was?
It is the prefect Sherlock Holmes story, it has the elements of myth and legend, the suggestion of the supernatural which engages the reader with a murder mystery involving a devilish hound that takes place in a dark unforgiving landscape, it takes Holmes and Watson out of their beloved Baker St home to mix with an odd collection of characters, all of whom are a potential suspect, all who have some sadness and mirth.
Q. The original book has five plots, how have you managed to condense that for stage?
There are still five plots but at least one has been changed, not just to help with the staging but also to fit with other aspects of the characters that have also been changed. Simon and I like to add our own mark on our productions, there seems no point in just repeating what has been done before.
Besides at least one of the films changed the same plot point from the book, we have created our own new plot for this point, but our plot theme does have a slight link to a Conan Doyle short story of 1891.
I will say no more.
Q. There have been numerous film and television adaptations. Have any particularly inspired this adaptation?
Simon and I have watched numerous filmed versions over the past few months, but we are always drawn back to the version with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Holmes and Watson, an absolutely wonderful film, I like to think that we have captured the spirit of this film in our production.
Q. Traditionally your acting talent has been community based, where is the cast for this production drawn from? Are there any new faces?
Fired Up Theatre remains committed to taking the best from the acting talent in the community and providing opportunities for them to develop as actors into their full potential, to the point where they can consider moving on to bigger stages if they so wish. We have an excellent cast most of which have appeared in our productions such as “At the Crossroads” and The Fell Walker.
We also work with professional actors and performing arts students, integrating them into the company.
This productions sees us working with Michael Lieber, an excellent stage professional, who mainly works in London. We are also working with excellent local professional actor Anthony Webster, whose previous stage performances have been countrywide, we first worked with Anthony in “At the Crossroads”, when he appeared in filmed role.
We also have two students from Staffordshire University Performing Arts, with Zara Lane and Lee Fisher. The University students also supported the production through the shadow theatre, which was filmed in the colleges TV studio.
Q. Co-writing a play seems fraught with conflict. How have co-writer Simon Quinn and yourself divided the process? Are you still talking?!
I must admit I have struggled to work in collaboration in the past.However since Simon and I first collaborated on The Wall, we have developed a reputation for risk taking, we have always worked very well together, we have very similar methods of working and easily spark ideas off each other.
We have built up a trust in each other and are excited by the opportunity to experiment and devise new productions. Simon is an excellent writer, I just wish I could act half as well as he can.
Q. Do you have plans to tackle any other stories from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? What plans do you have for your next production?
We have no plans to tackle any of the other Conan Doyle stories, but never say never, however we are talking to a venue about performing the Hound of the Baskervilles as an outdoor production next year.
We also continue to tour with our production of The Fell Walker, our next performance is at the Heron Theatre in Beetham, Cumbria in December, with further performances in Cumbria under discussion for next spring.
We are also in discussion regarding a new production for the Garrick Studio next May, which will be a very hard hitting contemporary play where we journey into a world of oppression, physical abuse, fear, faith, hope and love.
The Hound of the Baskervilles plays at the Lichfield Garrick Studio on 16th /17th October 2015, with tickets priced at £15 (£10 students). Tickets for the Saturday are almost sold out, pre-booking recommended and available from the website: