May 8, 2023

Classic drama’s links to North Norfolk

A comedy spoof version of a classic Sherlock Holmes thriller is part of the summer drama season at Sheringham Little Theatre.

And the play’s director Nick Earnshaw has been doing some sleuthing of his own – into the original play’s North Norfolk links.

The summer show will see a trio of actors give a new twist to the Hound of the Baskervilles, using multiple costume changes, slapstick humour, fun and clever effects.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s well-known dark murder mystery goes back 123 years when it was first printed in the Strand magazine.

It was set on the murky moors of the West Country, but its inspiration came months earlier when Conan Doyle visited North Norfolk.

Nick explained: “In the spring of 1901, the author decided to take a short break in North Norfolk after returning unwell from his stint as a volunteer doctor in South Africa. Staying in Cromer’s Royal Links Hotel, he was accompanied on his Norfolk trip by a friend, the journalist Bertram Fletcher Robinson.

“During their visit Conan Doyle and Fletcher Robinson were invited to dinner at Cromer Hall. Their host, Benjamin Cabbell, is alleged to have entertained his guests with the tale of his Devon ancestor Richard Cabbell.

“The family legend bears a striking similarity to the way in which Hugo Baskerville meets his death on Dartmoor in The Hound of the Baskervilles.

“Conan Doyle’s savage beast may have also been inspired by Norfolk’s own hair-raising legendary canine, Black Shuck. The author is alleged to have heard the tale of the ghostly black dog, with the locals in the bar of the Royal Links Hotel after bad weather ruled out his planned round of golf.

“It has long been evident that Cromer Hall may have provided the inspiration for the fictional Baskerville Hall. It is certain from the descriptions in the book there are many similar structural elements between the real-life Norfolk country house (rebuilt in the late 1820s in the Gothic Revival style) and Conan Doyle’s fictional creation.

“Sadly, no documented evidence exists on the part of the author to prove or disprove the theory that “The Hound of the Baskervilles” was inspired by his visit to Norfolk in 1901. However, judging by the number of occasions on which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle visited the area, it does at least seem safe to assume that the author had a genuine affection for the county and its people.”

“The Hound of the Baskervilles” runs from Tuesday August 15 to Saturday August 19.

Tickets are on sale now here or call the box office on 01263 822347.

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