"A Hilarious and Inventive Retelling"
by Paul Ackroyd for remotegoat on 16/12/16

The artistic team at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre have come up with another cracking show for the festive season. In the same genre as the superb Mystery of Irma Vep they produced some years back this year's offering is that Conan Doyle classic set on Dartmoor with all the familiar ingredients of swirling mist, isolated house, strange sounds in the night and sinister characters. However do not think that you are in for yet another classic retelling; this is a version like you have never seen before: a fast paced , witty piece of theatrical clowning performed by only three actors.

The small set is fairly bare with backdrops of large flats depicting the desolate moorland and set about with a few rocks. All the properties needed to depict the numerous locations of the action are wheeled on by the cast and the director Kate Bannister and her production team are to be complimented for the ingenuity of many of the stage pieces: I particularly loved the billiard table but will not say more for fear of spoiling the impact.

The three cast members Joey Bartram, Adam Elliott and Andrew Fitch played not only the three main characters for which they are credited in the programme, but also doubled or tripled, as a vast range of other characters and the continual disappearing behind the flats to reappear as another character in rapid costume change was a delight. The three actors worked very well as a team , stepping out of character periodically to cajole or reassure the audience. The script by Stephen Canny and John Nicholson is clever and funny , but the director did well to maximise the humour through clever bits of stage business and interactions between the cast members.

Although this is clearly a takeoff of the original very good use of incidental sounds, music and a hyperactive smoke machine managed to create enough of the mysterious forbidding atmosphere of the original to make the piece convincing. The lighting design by Michael Edwards and sound design by Philip Matejtschuk was superb and the pinpoint accuracy of the timing of the lighting and sound effects produced some wonderful effects.

At a time when so much of mainstream theatre seems to be trying to ape the production techniques of cinema and television it is refreshing to see a good example of theatre doing what only theatre can do. Grab a ticket if you can.

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