We conclude our series of interviews with the three stars of the Barn Theatre, Cirencester’s revival of Sherlock Holmes-as-comedy The Hound of the Baskervilles. Now on the case, it’s extremely well read Sherlock Holmes fan and consummate clown Dominic Brewer. Check out our interview below – and then get booking!
The Hound of the Baskervilles runs from 24 October to 24 November 2018 at Cirencester’s Barn Theatre in the Cotswolds, with a press night on 29 October.
When Sir Charles Baskerville is found dead on his estate, with a look of terror still etched on his face, and the paw prints of a gigantic hound beside his body, the great detective Sherlock Holmes is summoned from Baker Street, with Dr Watson in tow, to unravel the mysteries surrounding his death, and investigate the ancient curse of the Hound of the Baskervilles.
In the cast, Herb Cuanalo dons Holmes’ famous deerstalker hat with Hywel Dowsell as Watson and Dominic Brewer completing the trio. They play fourteen roles in total between them. Joseph O’Malley directs.
In conversation with… Dominic Brewer
Dominic Brewer plays the multi-roled clown in The Hound of the Baskervilles. His myriad stage credits include Twelfth Night and Richard III with Mark Rylance and Stephen Fry at Shakespeare’s Globe and in the West End, as well as Dracula, A Flea in Her Ear, Our House, The Lion King, Titanic, Tom’s Midnight Garden, The Mikado, Not About Heroes, Into the Woods, Harold and Maude, Follies, Whistle Down the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird.
Were you a Sherlock Holmes fan before this production?
Although I was familiar with the characters and the most famous stories from the various film and TV versions, I hadn’t actually read any Conan Doyle until last year. I bought the complete Holmes stories in five paperbacks and started from the beginning. Getting cast in this show obviously inspired me to read some more before rehearsals started.
The Hound of the Baskervilles aside, which is your favourite Sherlock Holmes story?
Probably The Sign of the Four, one of the first novels. It’s an exotic mystery, set partially in colonial India, and features a boat chase and a memorable villain. It was also the introduction to many famous Holmes staples, including his infamous drug addiction.
Controversial question: who’s your favourite Sherlock/Watson amongst the myriad screen versions?
Showing my age a bit here, but it’s neither the old B&W films or the contemporary adaptations. I always think of the 1980s-1990s TV versions I would have watched as a teenager, with Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke as the definitive ones. Brett had a wonderful voice, and I always imagine him when I’m reading. It’s a shame that he died before they managed to finish filming all of the stories.
What do you think it is about Sherlock Holmes that makes him so infinitely adaptable?
I suppose it must be the same with all the great crime and mystery writers – reading about the exploits of an extraordinarily clever detective is extremely satisfying. The challenge is to solve the puzzle before the big reveal, and enjoy the clockwork complexity of the plots. Holmes is a wonderfully flawed character though, more than many of the classic literary sleuths. For example, it was a brilliant innovation to write a protagonist who has no knowledge at all of things that don’t inform his methods of deduction – like astronomy, philosophy and politics.
How many roles do you play in The Hound of the Baskervilles?
I play Sir Henry Baskerville for the majority of the show, but also six other characters including three “subtly different” Dartmoor yokels. Sir Henry is great fun to play as in this version he is a total innocent – heart on his sleeve, not terribly bright but adorably cheerful – a bit like an over-eager schoolboy trying to be friends with everyone, even the people who obviously want him dead. Most difficult might be Dr Mortimer, just because he is so over the top, with a ridiculous accent and loads of important exposition to deliver at the top of the show.
You look like you’re having a laugh in rehearsals. Any anecdotes?
No, we don’t get on at all. It’s all a cleverly fabricated facade. Our director Joe is a cruel taskmaster who employs a strict “funny or die” rule, giving us line readings at gunpoint, and shouting “one-star reviews” at us. It’s very bleak.
What’s your favourite prop in the show?
There are loads of great props – but I think the Lamb-in-a-Bag is my favourite and is going to be a big hit with our audiences. I won’t say any more than that.
What’s the biggest challenge with performing a comedy like this?
It’s incredibly fast and demands a lot of different skills – especially physical and vocal ones, because we are all running full pelt between characters and locations, sometimes in a matter of seconds and with full costume changes. On top of that, you have to deliver the text and (hopefully) be funny. It’s a challenge for everyone, but the whole team at the Barn have risen to the challenge. The creative and technical departments are working miracles.
What would you say to London-based theatregoers about why they should come to Cirencester to see the show?
Firstly, it’s incredibly easy to get to Cirencester, particularly on the coach that picks up and drops off at the door to the theatre. And who wouldn’t want a day or two in the Cotswolds? Secondly, there’s not much on up London, is there? Now you’ve seen The Play That Goes Wrong and The Book of Mormon, you’re basically starved of some guaranteed hilarity. Lastly, you should come to the next big producing house before everyone is talking about it for pure bragging rights – “…of course, I was going to see shows at the Barn way back in 2018…”
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’d like to add a zero to my paycheque. Failing that, I hope everyone who comes to see us has as much fun watching the show as we have doing it. I feel like we could all use a good laugh right now. It’s easy to forget how powerful and important laughter can be.
The Hound of the Baskervilles runs 24 October to 24 November 2018 at The Barn, 5 Beeches Road, Cirencester GL7 1BN. Performances are Mondays to Saturdays at 7.30pm, with Thursday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm. Tickets are priced £15-30. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!