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LESLEY HART: My Sherlock Holmes play was inspired by living with Sally Reid

Laughing in lockdown - Laughter Yoga was one of the online initiatives flatmates Sally Reid and Lesley Hart got up to during the darker days of Covid restrictions.
Laughing in lockdown - Laughter Yoga was one of the online initiatives flatmates Sally Reid and Lesley Hart got up to during the darker days of Covid restrictions.

This time last year I was adapting a Sherlock Holmes book for the stage.

That was A Study in Scarlet, where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic duo, Holmes and Watson first meet, move in together, and conduct their first ever joint investigation.

The play, Sherlock Holmes: A Study in Lipstick, Ketchup and Blood, was commissioned by Pitlochry Festival Theatre to be performed in their beautiful hillside amphitheatre, somewhat puzzled into its wooded grounds.

I’m no Sherlock…

It puzzles me, anyway. Every time I go, I get lost in the woods. But then, I’m no Sherlock…

Tom Richardson as Ash and Deidre Davis in Sherlock Holmes: A Study In Lipstick, Ketchup and Blood.

Nevertheless, for some reason PFT entrusted me to the project.

This presented several puzzles: adapt this famous, well-loved detective story for the al fresco stage; dramatise its knotty murder investigation, involving lots of characters and locations, with only two actors and an hour to play with.

And make the play connect with a modern theatre audience whilst staying rooted in Doyle’s novella – and in doing all this, somehow make it my own…

Well, if you want to find out how I got on with puzzling all this out, you could (shameless plug) come to Pitlochry Festival Theatre tomorrow.

Winter Words festival

There myself, artistic director Elizabeth Newman, and actor Deirdre Davis (whose tour-de-force performance in the play thrilled audiences last summer) will be chatting in depth about making the show as part of PFT’s ‘Winter Words’ festival.

This will include some readings from the play – mainly starring Deirdre but with some help from me (I hope it’s a help!)

In a nutshell, my adaptation features two friends stranded together in a destroyed world, who find a strange new lease of life staging A Study in Scarlet together.

This was my solution to the puzzles I’d been set, but my starting point was: how do I make this play my own? What do I have in common with Holmes and Watson?

My answer: I too live with my pal – Perth’s own Sally Reid. Plus, we both play fictional crime-solvers – telly cops, but that’s another story (see my January 14 column).

LESLEY HART: Happy Valley rocks! Take it from another telly cop

Sally and I weren’t so much ‘thrown together by circumstance’ as I came to look after the cat four years ago and have never left.

Eighteen months in, pandemic hit. At which point we really were thrown together, in lockdown. And though we’ve been pals for 20 years, we’ve never been the only ‘in-person’ person available to each other for a prolonged, somewhat catastrophic period.

While the world went mad

And while the world went mad around us, we entertained ourselves, filming daft wee sketches, playing games, reading random bits of books and plays to each other in silly voices.

We kept each other going. We bonded. And that’s what I wanted to explore with Holmes and Watson, and the two pals, Harry and Ash, who stage their story.

The fact that Sally and I still live together – like Golden Girls but in Mount Florida instead of actual Florida – is either testament to our cohabiting genius forged in isolation, or Sally’s failure to get rid of me (so far). Watch this space…

To find out how Harry and Ash get on co-habiting in my play, you can come along to the Winter Words event tomorrow at PFT, or to the play itself when it’s back on in the summer.

Hell, why not throw them together in a wee digital basket and book both?

 

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