Some thoughts on adaptation regarding Sherlock Holmes

In 2013, I attended a lecture series at the University of London called Sherlock Holmes – Between Past and Present. One of the standout lectures was from James Brown about ‘Holmes and the Moving Image’, which examined the idea that Sherlock Holmes is literally a timeless figure.

Early Holmes adaptations updated to the stories to present day but kept Holmes firmly in the 1890s creating the everlasting image of the great detective with his deerstalker, Inverness cape, and pipe. The first two Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce films produced by Fox did attempt to place the stories in their original setting but when Universal took over they updated the stories to ‘present day’ but kept Holmes ‘ageless and locked in a time bubble’. It wasn’t really until the Granada series that they really tried to put Holmes back into the Victorian age, going to great lengths to pinpoint a date and stick as closely as possible to it. (Alastair Duncan pointed out that the Ronald Howard series also attempted to place Holmes in the Victorian age but I’m not very familiar with that adaptation so don’t know how much they stuck to their Victorian setting).

There is really nothing new in the idea of updating Sherlock Holmes, the majority of Sherlock Holmes have updated the stories – Basil Rathbone’s Holmes makes use of modern technology, as does Benedict Cumberbatch but these are not alien to the character of Holmes, the Sherlock Holmes of the original stories was a modern man and used up to date modern technology to aid him in his activities so there is nothing revolutionary about Sherlock Holmes searching the Internet or listening to the wireless because he is very much a man of his time, whatever time that may be.

Another panel I enjoyed was a discussion about Holmes as a social explorer in Luke Seaber’s paper on ‘Sherlock Holmes as a Social Explorer’ which linking in with Benjamin Poore’s paper on ‘Holmes as a Master of Disguise’ suggested that because Holmes is able to adopt different persona’s efficiently he does have a very good understanding of social cues and an understanding how those social cues differ in the class of society he was moving in. Seaber suggested that Holmes’s understanding of people comes from his ability to categorise people, like Henry Mayhew in his classification of people in ‘London Labourer and the London Poor’ (1851) so essentially, Holmes takes part in ‘incognito social exploration’ through his use of effective disguise.

An idea also suggested during one of the panels was that Sherlock Holmes himself was a character and that he was always acting, so did Watson really know his friend? I was especially reminded of all this with regards to the most recent series of Sherlock. Sherlock is very much part of the long tradition of adapting the character of Sherlock Holmes, rather than the stories…although Sherlock is perhaps closer than most of the looser adaptations.

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Welcome to the World of Tomorrow!

When Philips first launched ‘Hue’, their smart lighting system in 2012 (I think, that seems so long ago now!) I was in love. Granted, I am a lighting technician and often wish I’d pursued lighting design rather than the electrical side of things but that’s a different story…anyway, I was really intrigued by them. At the time it was massively beyond my price range so I could only watch from afar and put it on all my wishlists hoping I’d (a) win the lottery or (b) have a sudden pay increase. B (sort of) happened as I earn a pretty good living now and can actually save money!

Over time I’ve replaced my traditional GU10s with LED GU10s, with mixed results. The first set in my living room, far too dim and the replacements you can see from space! The first set had a warm light which would have been lovely if you could actually see what you were doing and didn’t have to buy a lamp, the second were far too harsh and quite painful to the point where I never switched on the overhead light. This is why I decided to go ahead with the Philips Hue lights.

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Hello 2017

2017.

My 2017 is going to start with a lovely scan in two weeks which I’m hoping will finally reveal what exactly is going on with my ovaries, or whatever it is. I’m also going to be starting a six-week course in portrait photography with City Lit.

Managed to read 19 books in 2016, which is a little embarrassing. Oops.

Theatre-wise, I saw quite a few productions but the best of the year was without a doubt ‘A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer’. Closely followed by ‘The Toxic Avenger’ and ‘Rotterdam’.

This year, I want to read more books, watch more films, take more photographs and continue going to the theatre. I still don’t feel well enough to commit to any physical activity but here’s hoping.

 

Theatre Review: ‘A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer’, Dorfman Theatre 29th November 2016

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‘A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer’
Book by Bryony Kimmings & Brian Lobel, music by Tom Parkinson and lyrics by Bryony Kimmings.

I recently caught the last performance of Bryony Kimmings’s A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer at the National Theatre’s Dorfman Theatre.

During the first act, we’re introduced to people with various cancers at various stages of their diagnoses through Amanda (played by the wonderful Amanda Hadingue), a single mum facing the prospect of her four-month-old son having cancer. The musical numbers are moving, haunting and surreal as each character deals with the reality of cancer. Some of the most moving moments came from Laura (masterfully and movingly played by Golda Rosheuvel) in the final stages of ovarian cancer and not ready to face her end and the young man (Gary Wood) trying to deal with testicular cancer on his own.

The twist came in the second act when Amanda stops to ask the writer (the ever present voice of Bryony Kimmings) a question and it’s revealed that the characters are real people with real stories met when Bryony was navigating the NHS with her four-month-old son. Laura, the woman facing a terminal diagnosis was an actress and singer who stopped singing but found her voice in her final weeks. The cast as themselves invited two of the people whose stories we were witnessing onto the stage to give their hopes for the future and invited the audience to name the people they wanted to remember who had been affected by cancer.

Needless to say, it was very affecting and probably one of the few times as a theatre goer I’ve been asked to face the truth. I can see why the reviews have been mixed but I found it a profoundly moving and challenging piece of true theatre

To Boldly Go…

When I was about 4 or 5, I caught an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series on early morning TV (in the early 90s). I don’t remember what episode it was and there’s a good chance it was one of the sillier ones but a bit like when I picked up the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes for the first time I was hooked. Star Trek would go on to be a very significant presence in my life but there was one thing I’d never done and never even entertained the thought of doing, going to a convention.

Until now.

On Sunday, I ventured to the NEC in Birmingham to attend ‘Destination Star Trek’. This being my first convention I didn’t really know what to expect, sadly a lack of funds meant that I was unable to purchase a bridge photo shoot or photographs with my favourites but I did buy tickets to hear William Shatner enthuse about the mysteries of the universe and to hear George Takei and Walter Koenig talk about their memories of working with DeForest Kelley. Money definitely well spent, especially in the case of latter. There were several free talks, the highlight for me being the look at the upcoming Roddenberry Vault release (which I have pre-ordered…) but at first I was a bit dismayed about the lack of things to do outside of talks.

There were a few vendors selling various Star Trek themed things but nothing that really stood out and there were only a few costumes and props on display. I don’t know what it’s like at other conventions but it all seemed a bit lacking…then I saw someone dressed in an utterly amazing Luxwana Troi costume (who turned out to be Misty Chance, a UK based drag artist who is utterly fabulous). After psyching myself up (social situations are difficult for me), I started asking the amazing cosplayers if I could take their photos I soon I was having a great amount of fun.

Yes it would have been amazing if there had been a ‘gaming zone’ (particularly as I have a several decks of the Star Trek Customisable Card Game and absolutely no idea how to play) and themed food & drink rather than just the bog standard burgers & beer but after a spectacularly long day (I had to leave my flat at 5am) I came to the conclusion that it was seeing several hundred people coming together to celebrate fifty years of a science fiction series which really made my day.

I look forward to attending more conventions in the future.

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(If you want to see the photos I took, they’re up on my Instagram :))

Holmesian Speculation: John *Heron* Watson?

(Originally posted on my rarely updated Holmesian blog)

At the Royal Society of Medicine there is small collection of items from the Royal College of Surgeons’s exhibition on ‘The Real Sherlock Holmes‘. It’s a fascinating collection, great to read more about ACD as a medical student and take a look at the people who inspired him.

An interesting thing I discovered whilst there was that the president of RCS from 1878 called Sir Patrick Heron Watson (1832 – 1907); his surgical career carries a certain resemblance to Watson’s. I tried finding an online resource, and all I could really find was this article (PDF) titled ‘An Edinburgh surgeon of the Crimean war–Patrick Heron Watson (1832-1907)’ by WB Watson, published in the Medical History journal v.10 (2) in April 1966.

Basically, after his training and whatnot, Sir Patrick Heron Watson decided to become an army surgeon and headed out to help in the Crimean War. Initially he was posted to Koolalee Hospital in Turkey, where he caught typhus and after a short convalescence was posted to the Crimea with the Royal Artillery – where unfortunately he contracted dysentery. He was put back on a boat going to Scutari (ships doctor said he wouldn’t last the night) and spent the next four weeks in the hospital there, where he became ill with mercury poisoning before finally being sent back to England and spent further recovery in a hotel in London.

Given that ACD used so much from his own experiences and life as influence for Holmes, it wouldn’t surprise me if Sir Patrick Heron Watson’s early army career was inspiration for John Watson’s career and that the ‘H’ is for Heron.

Update: 

As with all things Holmesian, there are more resources out there talking about Sir Patrick Heron Watson being the source for both Watson’s middle name and surname.

An article in the Baker Street Journal titled ‘Some Observations upon the Segregation of the Bea (sic)‘ (PDF) by S. E. Dahlinger reveals that in 1949 Jay Finley Christ wrote an article called “John H. Watson Never Went to China” which challenged John Dickson Carr’s belief that John Watson was based on ACDs friend James Watson, as ACD didn’t met him until after he wrote STUD. The case was then followed up in the 1980s by Jon L. Lellenberg and W. O. G. Lofts who published “John H(eron) Watson, M.D.” in vol. 30, No.2 of the Baker Street Journal (pages 83 – 85 if you want to look it up).

Learning the truth behind “there may be some discomfort”

I’m back from spending four days being cared for by the lovely staff at University College London Hospital. Every step of the way the staff have been professional, caring and just plain lovely. Even though I don’t have a definite answer to what happened, they have an idea and I’m in a position where I can make sure it doesn’t happen again.

So what happened?

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