We British love a good whodunit – and our pantheon of literary greats have provided us with some iconic characters and plots over the years.
It also seems we love nothing more than a good stage comedy caper.
And Anglophile American playwright Ken Ludwig has married the two together in Baskerville – a Sherlock Holmes Mystery which is receiving its UK premiere as the Liverpool Playhouse’s Christmas show.
Ken, who was inspired to create the fast-paced murder mystery after seeing audience favourite The 39 Steps, explains: “Sherlock Holmes characters have been brought to the stage many times, and for good reason.
“You can count on the fingers of one hand the number of really, genuinely mythic, iconic characters in English literature that were created out of whole cloth by an author.
“You find them in Dickens, and you find them in Jane Austen, and of course you find them in Shakespeare. I shouldn’t say one hand, two hands!
“Conan Doyle managed to create these two mythic, larger-than-life, but very accessible and edgy and loveable, yet ingenious characters, who the entire world embraced virtually immediately after he created them. Two short novels and then the first story and it just took off in the world’s imagination.
“And the reason is that they’re unique and that they belong on stage.”
Jay Taylor (Sherlock Holmes) in rehearsals Credit: Brian Roberts
Expect much derring-do, dark moments, speedy scene changes and imagination as his youthful Holmes and Watson (played in the Liverpool show by Jay Taylor and Patrick Robinson) investigate the death of Sir Charles Baskerville and tales of a fearful beast on the loose, with the help – and hindrance – of a myriad of other characters, all played by a hardworking ensemble of three.
“I had a wonderful time at the 39 Steps,” says Washington DC-based Ken. “I think I saw it twice, I took my kids to it. It was ingenious fun, and I love the idea of going in to the theatre and having a rollicking good time.
“It’s really deeply part of the great English stage tradition. And when I see 39 Steps, and other things, that are wonderful shows, at the Globe and the RSC, I’m energised by the notion that we all collectively sit in the theatre and share that kind of adventurous, edge-of-your-seat experience.
“And that’s what I’ve tried to create.”
Edward Harrison and Bessie Carter in rehearsals. Credit: Brian Roberts
Although he doesn’t usually watch his own plays – and he has more than 20 to his name including Lend Me a Tenor and Crazy For You (playing at the Liverpool Empire this week), Ken is making an exception for the Playhouse’s production due to his close friendship with its director, Loveday Ingram.
“She’s such a great director,” he says, “and she always directs with such huge imagination and comes up with ideas that are out of the box. And apparently in this case they’ve got some fantastic designers together as well.”
Baskerville is at the Liverpool Playhouse from December 9 to January 13. Tickets from the website HERE