Sidmouth Sherlock play premiere

SIDMOUTH S Manor Pavilion Theatre, stages the world premiere of The Return of Sherlock Holmes, last of the Charles and Imogen Vance summer season (September 24-30).

SIDMOUTH'S Manor Pavilion Theatre, stages the world premiere of The Return of Sherlock Holmes, last of the Charles and Imogen Vance summer season (September 24-30).

Among the audience on first night will be its author, Donald Thomas.

Now 75 and living in Bath, Donald has published 40 books to date, many historical, some non-fiction and seven biographies of men such as Lord Cardigan, Robert Browning and Henry Fielding.

It was a decade ago he first decided that if Sherlock Holmes had existed he would have been involved in famous criminal cases of the day, such as the siege of Sidney Street, involving Winston Churchill in 1911, or the Zimmerman Telegram of 1917, an encrypted message containing details of a huge German naval offensive and plan to keep America out of the war.


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He has used both ideas for his Sherlock books, a pastiche of the original tales by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, adding real-life characters from the day, such as QC Sir Edward Marshall Hall and telling them from Dr Watson's viewpoint.

So began a new stage in Donald's life and he has just published his fourth Holmes book, Sherlock Holmes and the King's Evil, which is proving so popular the hardback stock has gone.

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"The reviews have been very good, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in the US said it was the best since Conan Doyle," said Donald.

The road to writing his first play began in Sidmouth - which he used to cycle to each Sunday when at boarding school in Taunton - after a performance of Gaslight.

"I came out (of the theatre) and a lady was standing there. I said what a wonderful performance, a West End performance, and it was Imogen Vance I was talking to.

"She said 'why don't you write a play?' and I said I had never written one.

"I thought I could take one of my stories and turn it into a play and see what happens. To my surprise everyone liked it."

Based on the case of the Phantom Chambermaid, John Elnaugh plays Holmes, with James Pellow as Dr Watson.

Donald says: "Charles Vance has put his neck on the block for this production. What happens after Sidmouth? I haven't had time to think about it."

*Call (01395) 579977 for tickets.

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