Castle Hill Players are delivering one more play before 2024 begins with Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery, a production that promises to pair an engaging murder-mystery with a healthy dose of comedy.
The men of the wealthy Baskerville family are being picked off one-byone by a mysteriously clever killer, and it’s up to Sherlock Holmes (David Allsop) and John Watson (Peter Phan) to crack the case before it’s too late in this comedic twist on the classic Arthur Conan Doyle novel.
Baskerville is the first time that Jason Spindlow, a long-time member of the Pavilion Theatre family, has fully stepped into the role of director. Since his first play at the theatre, 2014’s Just Macbeth! directed by Meredith Jacobs, Jason has become a valued member of the Castle Hill Players family, starring in a number of plays and recording many of them for archival purposes.
Having previously directed a Dracula radio play and been assistant director on 2022’s production of The Mystery of Irma Vep. Jason says: “The big difference has been seeing all the other stuff you have to do as the full director backstage. Being assistant director, you just sit there and write your own notes, just focusing on the actors – but with directing, you have to answer lots of different questions. It’s a lot of troubleshooting!”
In directing a play based on one of the most famous literary characters of all time, Jason has been inspired by a number of other Sherlock Holmes adaptations to build out the version in this play. “It’s been interesting, because people have their own view of that character as well.
Since it’s comedic, everything has to be a bit tongue and cheek to the audience, while also showing he’s struggling in a world of normality because of the way his mind works.”
A notable aspect of Baskerville is its unique distribution of roles; while David Allsop and Peter Phan play the iconic duo of Holmes and Watson, the play’s remaining three actors – Lana Jean Hill, Josiah Lucas and Jonathon Burt – play close to forty different roles in the play.
Jason says one of the biggest challenges was determining how to differentiate each character: “Costume is a huge component of that, but the crew backstage have always said ‘Yeah, we can do that.’ And even when I ask if they’re sure, they always say they’ve got it.
“Lana, Josiah and Jonathon have all been a blessing to work with too, because they’ve been building so many different characters. It was really tough during auditions, there were other actors that could do that, but these three came in with preset characters ready to go, and I was immediately thinking that’s what I want.”
Even for David and Peter in the roles of Holmes and Watson, Jason has encouraged a lot of playing around. “We’re being irreverent to the text, having a crack at anything even if the script makes you feel one way, you try to take it another. Peter has been particularly irreverent, I get lots of different things from him – it’d be a different accent every night, from Northern England to Cockney!”
Although it’s a lot of work to create so many different characters, everyone’s been having an “almost illegal” amount of fun, according to Jason. “I think sometimes that maybe I should be a little more rigid with things, but I feel like we’ve produced some really cool stuff. We’ve had some things happen accidentally onstage and we’ve burst out laughing, and I say keep that! That’s brilliant for your character.”
Jason has deeply enjoyed being in the director’s seat for Baskerville. “I loved the journey with it; seeing the evolution of the actors, the difference between the rehearsals in the foyer and then seeing a set with a black curtain being put up, and you sit there thinking how different it was to when you first started. I’ve got lots of enjoyment out of it, but the fact that this is a story lots of people are going to come and see… that’s the part I’m most excited about.”
Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery opens on Friday 17th November at 8pm, with the season running until the 9th of December. It’s a play you’ll die laughing trying to solve, providing lots of laughs while still containing the bones of an enthralling murder mystery – don’t forget your deerstalker caps. Tickets are $30pp, or $25pp for Concession tickets.