“Spooky Joyous Fun”. An Interview with the cast of The Hound of the Baskervilles

The award-winning Original Theatre Company and Octagon Theatre Bolton present the 2021/22 tour of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most celebrated adventure, The Hound of the Baskervilles. Adapted for the stage by Steven Canny and John Nicholson for Peepolykus, in a production which was first performed at the Octagon Theatre this summer, the classic detective tale gets a brilliantly farcical overhaul in Lotte Wakeham’s acclaimed production.

A hit in the West End, this ingenious adaptation combines an exhilarating collision of farce, theatrical invention and wonderfully comic performances to offer a brand-new twist on the greatest detective story of all time.

Mr Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound… World-renowned detective Sherlock Holmes and his colleague Dr. Watson are asked to unravel the mystery surrounding the untimely death of Sir Charles Baskerville. With rumours of a cursed giant hound loose on the moors, they must act fast in order to save the Baskerville family’s last remaining heir.

The cast of The Hound of the Baskervilles is Jake Ferretti (The Kitchen, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, The Understudy) as Sherlock Holmes, Serena Manteghi (Welcome To Iran, To Build a Rocket, Mrs Wilson) as Sir Henry and Niall Ransome as Dr. Watson (Mischief Movie Night, The Comedy About A Bank Robbery, Fcuk’d).

What can you tell us about the character(s) you play?
I think one of the stand-out things for me regarding Holmes is how distant he can be (especially to Watson) and, whilst being unimaginably intelligent, his emotional intelligence leaves a lot to be desired. But, I kind of love him for that.
SM: I play a whole host of colourful characters including Sir Charles Baskerville, Dr Mortimer, a helpful London cabbie, three “yokels” (one wise, two less so) and last but not least, the romantic lead (after Dr Watson, of course) and newest Squire of Baskerville Hall; Sir Henry Baskerville!
NR: I play Doctor Watson. Literature’s most famous sidekick. He’s been such a fun part to get to grips with. He has a real puppy dog loyalty in this show and it’s fun to play him as a total idiot. A competent incompetence really. In the books Watson is normally the readers ‘in’ to the story and it’s nice to find the fun in him with this.

What are you most looking forward to in the show? 
The ridiculousness of it all. Let’s face it, we’ve all had an indescribably horrific time over the past two years and to be a part of a super fun, super funny piece (IN AN ACTUAL THEATRE!) … I can’t wait to get it in front of people now. 
SM: Blimey, I’m not sure if I could choose one thing in particular! Also, I don’t want to give anything away… that said, there is a rather stunning Tango sequence, if I do say so myself.
NR: There’s so much I enjoy about it and it’s a very physical show for all of us. Anything with the three of us all on stage together I think. It’s been so much fun finding the dynamics with each other and trying to catch the others out. Trying to surprise ourselves and make everyone laugh, that makes this show exciting. 

What do you think could be challenging? 
Getting my costumes on in time. 
SM: There are certainly parts of the show that require feats of Olympian dexterity but any caution felt is likely more a reflection of my own personal shortcomings. Other than that, my greatest challenge will be trying not to laugh at my comrades’ superb comic performances.
NR: It’s such a quick play. Most comedies and farces are like fast trains and if you fall off it’s pretty hard to get back on again so I guess we have to ride the wave! 

Were you already a fan of Conan Doyle’s books and any previous tv or film adaptations? 
One of the things I love about the Holmes stories is how dark they are. Though we are not playing it in this way, Holmes is quite a dark character and I love that Arthur Conan Doyle was bold enough to put those ideas to paper. 
SM: I think the books are woven so deeply and lovingly into our cultural vocabulary that, growing up in the UK, you feel the infamous Holmes and Watson are just a part of the literary furniture, as it were. Like Father Christmas. That said, I absolutely loved the recent BBC adaptations and would tune in as soon as they were aired for fear of someone spoiling the mystery.
NR: I LOVED the books growing up and have re-read quite a few of them in the past few years. It’s so iconic so hard to avoid really. The Moffat/Gatiss series got so much right and was rightly very popular but I also really liked a few episodes of Elementary too. 

What are you looking forward to most about touring? 
Eating! Niall, Serena and I are huuuuuuuuge foodies and we have some deliciously delightful places we plan on testing whilst there. 
SM: Ooh! This is a great question! I think probably I’m most excited about enjoying a culinary exploration of the UK as Jake, Niall and I are all passionate eaters. I am currently compiling a list of the best ice cream vendors in all our touring stops. If you have any recommendations for your favourite coffee/food/sweet treats in your home town, please do tweet @serenamanteghi
NR: After the last year and a half, getting to visit some amazing theatres and the cities they’re in is going to be amazing. It feels like we’ve all been stuck in one place for so long so it’s going to be very exciting to get back on the road. And getting this show in front of different audiences all around the country, each for a week at a time then packing up the car and onto the next, is going to feel brilliant. 

Do you have any interesting connections with any of the tour’s venues?
I have toured to most of these places in 2008 whilst doing the Alan Bennett play, Enjoy, with Alison Steadman and David Troughton. Also, I am from Essex originally and will be staying with my parents who live in Colchester – which also happens to be famous for oysters! Nom Nom!
SM: I do indeed! First off, I studied and lived in York for many years and still work there often. It is my spiritual home and I have been assured I can now call myself an honorary Yorkshire lass so I’m very much looking forward to heading back up North. Also, I think some the best audiences in the world are at Theatr Clwyd and it is so beautifully situated. That being said, I am so excited for every stop, I either have a very fond connection to them or have never been and am thus filled with joyous anticipation to explore these new spots!
NR: I’m from, and grew up in, Hull so was constantly visiting York. I saw a lot at the Theatre Royal there so it’s going to be great to finally perform there too. It’s a very special place. Also, I saw a lot at Richmond Theatre when I first moved to London. I did The 39 Steps at Theatr Clywd and we had a great time there so I’m excited to get back to the theatre on the hill. 

How does it feel to be back on stage after a tough time for the theatre industry? 
Though I have my podcast, ‘My Sh**ty Actor Boyfriend’ (Apple Podcasts/Spotify), which talks to creatives in the performance industry about how their mental health has been exacerbated by the industry, not having the theatre world at arms-length has been crushing in many ways. Tim Jackson, our director, was super conscious of this from day one and wanted to cultivate an open and considerate rehearsal space for everyone where we keep an eye out for each other. I’m thrilled it’s back and to be working with this team. They’re all incredible. 
SM: On the first day of rehearsals I turned to Jake and Niall and said “I feel like a kid who was won a competition.” I am just elated to be back doing the job I love. I am a big believer in the importance of gathering together in a theatre and sharing a story, especially after the year we’ve all had. 
NR: Coming back and seeing reactions to shows has itself shown the importance of theatre and the vital role it plays. It tells a story, it entertains but more than anything it gets a bunch of people, all from different backgrounds and places in a room to share in something. I think its absence has showed us just how much we need it. It’s great to be back!

Describe the play in 3 words 
Fun from beginning. 
SM: Spooky joyous fun. 
NR: Book tickets now.

Lastly, tell us something we might not know about you…
I was on The Weakest Link in 2003 and Pointless in 2014. Won both.
SM: I have no idea! I can whistle pretty loud? Ummmm, my cast-mates and I have some VERY strong and potentially controversial opinions about crisps.
NR: I was lucky enough over the last year to do the Mischief Movie Night In streams during the pandemic. It’s an improvised movie we’ve done for years but the lockdown forced us to find a new way to do it. We started streaming it and it played all over the world, even finding audiences in South Korea which is incredible. It’s a similar style of comedy to Baskervilles, just silly and fun so it’s great to be back doing something you’re not making up on the spot but still is so similar in spirit.