Crime thriller made cheeky by humour

One afternoon, as the city's theatre buffs gathered at an auditorium awaiting one of the most celebrated detective stories of the globe - Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of The Baskervilles by Aadyam theatre - the curtain rose to a rather unexpected scene.

Holmes, his aide Dr Watson and Sir Henry Baskerville were sitting in a steam sauna wrapped in towels discussing a threat letter Sir Henry had received. That’s when the audience realised this would not be the familiar spine-chilling tale of the hound and the Baker Street man.

This version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work is an adaptation by Steven Canny and John Nicholson. But can it live up to the expectations from the cult novel, and the most loved detective who could tell a tale of a walking stick just by the look of it? Well, there seemed to be only two ways one could take this adaptation–for those who appreciate a cheeky sense of humour could love it, while the others who could only hate it.

But for the director of the play Akash Khurana, “the classic Sherlock Holmes mystery has inspired many versions for the stage and screen over the years, but this adaptation is the first funny take on the original that I have come across”.

“I was particularly intrigued by the challenges it posed on the inventiveness of the theatre artists, not just actors but designers, stage managers, wardrobe people and stage hands,” Khurana told IANS.

Originally written by Doyle is a mystery surrounding the death of Sir Charles Baskerville, with a mysterious look of terror on his face and paw prints of a gigantic hound etched around his body. Holmes, along with Dr Watson unravel the mystery surrounding this death and save Sir Henry from being the next victim of the beast.

Makes one wonder if the plot isn't a rather too intense mystery, etched in the minds of millions, to enable a comical twist.

Khurana’s play has a five-member cast, who themselves play all the other roles by indulging in quick costume changes - during which technical glitches seep in throughout the play.

As the curtains rise, audience witness Sir Charles running for his life, the set lights perfectly setting the eerily scene. But as soon as he dies, the lights are on, and the actors are on stage prompting each other over missing lines, and soon make decisions to redo the play after few minutes into it!

These kind of meta-theatrical instances keep adding to the plot throughout the play. One could question if these were taking away the essence of the play established so far.

Sherlock, played by Karan Pandit, although with his good looks fits into a what a Holmes can be, never quite gives out the Sherlockian deductions of the mysterious around him. The play also seemed like its being rushed through, when such intriguing details which usually catch Holmes’ attention are left behind.

And Dr Watson, who serves as an important catalyst for Holmes’ function, as the American mystery writer William L DeAndrea said, takes the role of a comic in Khurana’s play.

Played by Arghya Lahiri, Dr. Watson bears an ignorant look but spurts out rather cheeky comments throughout, something an army doctor like Watson wouldn't play along with.

After a short recess, the actors came back on to the stage and bring back the meta- theatre aspect into the play. The artists, who express disappointment over a tweet which said the play was rather ‘slow’, quickly recap the whole play within minutes. Considering the role changes they needed to do, this one aspect was quite commendable.

Vivaan Shah, the younger son of the theatre genius Naseeruddin, merely plays the role of a convict who only has to run across the stage. And Stapleton and Miss Stapleton, both played by Karan Pandit, sport some rather annoying accents. All in all, one would question if the genius writer's greatest story was lost in the effort of giving a comical spin to. But where was the real mystery solving?

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