THERE has always been a wit and charm about Sherlock Holmes, a singular comedic aura that has recently been fleshed out in the Robert Downey, Jude Law Holywood blockbusters – but the super sleuth’s recent incarnation on stage at The Mill at Sonning in The Hound of the Baskervilles, is wonderfully funny as well as damn scary and fantastically acted, writes Paul Thomas.

In fact, this is the best Holmes I’ve seen on stage for many a year.

At times it had me laughing out loud at the interplay between Sherlock and loyal side-kick Dr Watson (when the escaped prisoner Seldon is killed by the hound on Dartmoor wearing the intended victim’s clothes, Holmes says ‘It’s the coat which killed him, Watson: ‘What, not warm enough?’), at times the darkness veiling Homes’ character is deep and psychological, befitting the mental torment of the man.

This is a clever play in all aspects with a marvellous adaptation by one of our best-loved and respected actors Simon Williams. Simon Williams (Upstairs, Downstairs, Don’t Wait Up, Holby City, The Archers, EastEnders), has adapted this classic Holmes mystery.

His son, Tam Williams has devised the production for the Mill and Thomas Daley has really shown a way of directing this most beloved Holmes’ story.

In this classic, Sir Charles Baskervilles dies in strange circumstances with a look of fear and terror on his face. Legend has it there is a curse on the family – a curse in the form of a gigantic, ferocious, glowing hound of hell – that brings death to each successive head of the Baskerville family.

And when inheritor of the family pile in Devon, Sir Henry Baskerville returns from overseas to claim his property on the treacherous terrain of darkest Dartmoor, he calls on Holmes to help him solve the riddle of his uncle’s violent death.

Is there really a revenge-seeking Hound?

Or are there other evil motives at work?.

Together Williams and Daley have been able to bring the eeriness of the moors into the Mill’s auditorium itself to get audiences to feel the presence of the mystical hound right next to them.

In the original story Watson is sent on ahead to Dartmoor without Holmes who apparently haa to stay in London where Watson will send daily letters, but to make sure the relationship works between the two men, Williams has literally put Holmes in Watson’s head, telepathically, telling him what to do and say with hilarious results as Holmes creeps around the audience shouting at his friend.

The nightmare scene at the beginning of the play is excellent as it draws in the darkness of the plot and of Holmes’ insecure mental state, brought back after the play’s denouement.

Holmes himself is brilliantly played by James Tucker, pictured above, with all the suave sarcasm the sleuth deserves.

Darrell Brockis as Watson is half bumbling, half provocateur.

The set is dynamic, dark and broodingly magnificent in its stark simplicity.

Ajjaz Awad is excellent as both Beryl, the woman who Baskerville is led to fall in love with, and as the hound itself.

Chris Myles is simply nasty as the creepy Stapleton and steadfast as the stalwart Stapleton. Tom McCarron as the various Baskervilles holds the plot together with great interplay with his cast members.

But look for the magic in this tale also.

The puppetry, use of lighting, shadow and sound for the hound itself, designed by Susan Dacre with movement directed by Rachel Warr, is just wonderful and at times toward the end of the play is frankly outstanding, with more than a touch of interplay with the audience.

This is a technically superb as an eight-hander, with many of the characters being played by the small, but beautifully formed cast.

At times, laugh out loud, at times engaging, at times magnificently moody, at times, foreboding and intriguing.

A great night out with oohs and aahs everywhere and all in the right places.

You won’t be disappointed, so ditch the tellybox and get on down to The Mill at Sonning for this delight of a death mystery.

The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Mill at Sonning, until March 17.

Box office: 0118 9698000.