Think of Arthur Conan Doyle’s great 1902 Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound Of The Baskervilles, and your mind is likely to fill with classic images of Gothic horror and nightmare. A giant hound roaming Dartmoor in the night, its bloody jaws agape; a great, dark house on the edge of the moor; a tale of supernatural horror and a timeless curse, passing from generation to generation.
Conan Doyle’s story contains so many elements of the macabre that it is sometimes difficult to remember how thoroughly Sherlock Holmes finally solves the mystery, which involves the mysterious death – with a look of horror on his face – of Sir Charles Baskerville, the master of Baskerville Hall. Yet solve it he does, transforming all that imagery of nightmare into an all-too-human tale of disinheritance, greed and revenge.
It’s because of that profound reversal of mood, and measured appeal to reason, that the final pages of the novel are so remarkable; and here, much-loved Scottish stage actor and Pitlochry Ensemble member Greg Powrie delivers Holmes’s final monologue to his friend Dr Watson, in which he calmly and forensically explains the sensational events they have just experienced.
Powrie spent his early childhood in Bahrain, where his civil engineer father was working, before returning to Scotland in the mid-1970s to go to school in Perthshire. He says that he was always a show-off, and that his friends always knew he would become an actor; and after school – and a revelatory 1979 season with the Scottish Youth Theatre – he trained at Queen Margaret College in Edinburgh, before winning his Equity card as an assistant stage manager at the Lyceum. Within two years, after a step up to an acting job with a touring company, he found himself appearing in the West End, and trying his luck as an actor in London.
In the late 1980s, though, he returned to Scotland to help build a set for a friend, and became drawn into the Scottish theatre scene. He appeared in his first Pitlochry season in 1992, alongside the great Jimmy Logan in Death Of A Salesman; and in 1994, just as he was thinking of returning to London, he met his future wife, the actress Deirdre Davis, and decided to stay. Greg and Deirdre have raised two daughters, now have three grandchildren, and live in Pitlochry with their much-loved dogs; and both are at the height of their powers as actors, with Greg appearing in recent shows ranging from a 2019 UK touring production of Rona Munro’s version of Frankenstein, to a Highland tour of Linda Duncan McLaughlin’s powerful play Descent, about the experience of dementia, which Greg describes as one the highlights of his career, for the sheer strength of the audience response it evoked.
“I feel I’ve always been very lucky in my acting life,” says Powrie, “and I’ve also had a range of other theatre skills to keep me going, whether as a stage manager, a carpenter, or whatever.” Since lockdown, he has worked as a Tesco delivery driver, and for a gardening company, entertaining his social media friends with daily reports from “the office” on some glorious or rain-sodden Perthshire hillside.
“I’ve never been afraid to take on other work when I needed to,” says Powrie, “whether it was tour guiding or whatever. I love acting, though; and now I just can’t wait to be back in a rehearsal room again. I hesitated a little over this piece,” he adds, “because it’s so unusual to perform a stand-alone monologue from the very end of a story. But it is a remarkable moment of calm and reason, after so much drama and horror; and I hope I’ve been able to capture some of that.”
A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.
If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription at https://www.scotsman.com/subscriptions