Preview: The Hound Of The Baskervilles, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds

The dog it was that died laughing
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The Independent Culture

It's unlikely that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ever envisaged The Hound of the Baskervilles being turned into a comedy. The Sherlock Holmes tale is set on the desolate landscape of Dartmoor in 1889, where the great detective and Dr Watson investigate an ancient family curse at Baskerville Hall that causes its victims to be mauled by a demonic dog. Yet the acclaimed comedy trio Peepolykus have chosen it as the first classic British text to be given their surreal treatment.

The company, founded 10 years ago by John Nicholson, specialises in absurdist productions, including Let the Donkey Go, Rhinoceros and All In the Timing. "We always enter into a world of the ridiculous," Nicholson says, "using physical comedy and drawing on the principles of clowning, influenced by Jacques Tati and the Marx Brothers. Because we are essentially coming from a clown perspective - having all worked with the clown guru Philippe Gaulier - we have been encouraged to be truthful in any situation, serious or funny."

Nicholson, who's adapted the novel with Steven Canny and who takes on the role of Watson, is joined by Javier Marzan as Sherlock Holmes and Jason Thorpe as Sir Henry Baskerville - although between them the trio play 20 characters. Orla O'Loughlin directs.

"We thought we could take the relationship between Holmes and Watson in an unexpected direction," Nicholson says. "How do they really feel about each other? What we have done is to investigate the power struggle between them. We reveal Watson's inner feelings a bit more in his role as the underdog. He thinks he has been given this latest case to solve all by himself - this puffs out his confidence - but then he finds out that Holmes has been on the moors all along."

19 January to 17 February (; 0113-213 7700); then touring nationally from 20 February (