It is a tale of blackmail, murder, suicide, deceit and treasure.
This is the premise of a new play by lifelong Sherlock fan, Portsmouth-born Mike Grogan.
It is the debut play by Mike, who is better known as a folk musician of some renown, and is currently on a tour of the south.
‘I’ve always been a passionate Sherlockian – and so has my wife. I’m a member of The Sherlock Holmes Society of London and my wife used to work on the Lancelyn Green exhibition for several years, so we’re both very much into these things.’
Keen to try his hand at something for the stage, Holmes seemed the obvious place to start, but Mike wanted to try and find a different take on familiar territory – which is why Dr Watson takes the lead.
'Dr Watson is the one with the mystery – Sherlock is in it, he opens the show and closes the show, but they don’t actually meet, and he’s working away in the background.
‘It’s one of those things, trying to think of new ideas, and where I’ve been passionate about all-things Sherlockian and the Victorian steampunk-type things, so I thought, knowing a lot about the subject, I wanted to do something very close to the Conan Doyle canon.
‘If someone else fanatical comes to this, everything’s authentic, and there’s lots of things in there – like there’s a character in there called Ormond Sacker, when Conan Doyle first started thinking about Sherlock Holmes, his original name for Dr Watson was Ormond Sacker, but his publisher said: “That’s a terrible name, change it!” So he did. If a Sherlockian comes to see it, they’ll think “Oh!” But if you don’t know, then it doesn’t detract from the story. There’s a few things like that I’ve put in there.’
It’s not Mike’s first foray into stage shows though, that was Private Henry Tandey VC, a folk-opera he toured in 2017, which told the story of the most decorated British soldier of the First World War, but was also known as the man who spared Hitler’s life.
That toured with two musicians, one being Mike, and two actors.
‘With Henry Tandey, that’s a true story and his family made contact and came to a few shows, they were really pleased that his story came out. There wasn’t much information about him, so I had to really dig into things and into the person – it was a really good experience.
‘In a couple years time I want to maybe bring more actors into it, and make it more of a play. At the moment it’s more a series of monologues and the songs. The music will still be part of it, that was really important to him. It was a great project and I learned so much from it.’
As a full-blown play, Life After Sherlock is something new for Mike.
‘This is a complete departure for me – it’s a complete stage play. I’ve written and directed it and we’re doing a tour of 21 dates but I’ll just be involved on the technical side for the live shows. It’s exciting stuff.
‘It’s really strange. Being at the back of the stage and pushing buttons is new to me, I’ve always performed. But we’ve got some really terrific actors in this.’
For fans of Mike’s music, this doesn’t mean he’s put that side of things to bed.
‘I’m still playing music all of the time.
‘Writing plays has come to me rather late in life, but it’s brilliant fun. When you write a three-four minute song, you can do it relatively quickly –sometimes they come out quick, sometimes they might take a few weeks, but with a play, that’s taken me about a year, and you’re changing it and tweaking it and moving it around.
‘It’s absolutely fascinating.’
LIFE AFTER SHERLOCK
The Spring Arts Centre, Havant
Friday, May 10
Ashcroft Art Centre, Fareham
Friday, May 17
Portsmouth Guildhall Studio
Titchfield Festival Theatre
Wednesday, June 5