It had been quite a while since we’d delved into the world of the great detective, but Peter and I needed little excuse to head back to Baker Street. Our last play, Sherlock Holmes Strikes Back, was released back in 2011 and has been one of their most popular downloads ever since. I think it was inevitable that we would do some kind of follow up.
It’s not a direct sequel – there’s a fair bit of difference between the two plays. Sherlock Holmes Strikes Back took its inspiration from the 1940s wartime propaganda films starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, as well as their subsequent radio outings. If you’ve never heard or seen this partnership in action, I would recommend watching the films and having a listen. Rathbone and Bruce are a formidable team and one of the defining versions of Holmes and Watson. I will admit that when I was younger and took myself more seriously I was less than enamoured with Nigel Bruce. Now I see how great a comic performance it is.
Having covered the wartime adventures of Sherlock Holmes, we needed a new hook for our story and inspiration came from Holmes’ popularity and the number of copycat detectives that sprung up in his wake. There are tonnes of them out there, Max Carados, Thomas Carnaki, Professor S.F.X. Van Dusen and probably the most famous of them all, Sexton Blake. There’s a great collection of stories that you can track down, The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, edited by former BBC Director General Sir Hugh Carlton Greene. It was also adapted for television by Thames TV in the 1970s and is available from the wonderful Network Releasing.
So Holmes’s rivals were the inspiration – how would they feel in competition to the public’s favourite consulting detective? We also decided to make it harder on ourselves by writing three separate adventures to create a portmanteau. It was good fun, coming up with ridiculous cases for the Holmes and Watson to solve. It was important to remember that while the cases were silly, we treat our heroes with respect. If we send them up a little, it is done with love.
The Trial of Sherlock Holmes is a Newgate Production, exclusively available from The Wireless Theatre Company. It’s a subscription service, but well worth it. You can join from as little as three pounds and there’s lots to choose from. Some of them even feature me, so think of that as an incentive! To find out how to subscribe, click here.