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The first Sherlock Holmes story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Adapted in two episodes by Bert Coules
with Clive Merrison as Sherlock Holmes and Michael Williams as Dr John Watson
London, 1881: a penniless doctor meets a curious young man with some extremely strange habits....
(Repeated next Sunday, 2.30pm)
See panel, right
The game's afoot! But tell me, Holmes, why should Clive Merrison feel such an affinity with yourself? Radio sleuth David Gillard has been following the clues...
Clive Merrison has always had a sneaking desire to play Sherlock Holmes, partly because so many friends and fans have told him that he should. 'There's a famous etching of Holmes - either from the Strand magazine or one of the early books - which is the absolute spit of me,' he explains. 'For years now people have been sending it to me and saying "It's you!" so I have rather hankered after the part.'
It is certainly ironic that when Clive finally makes his bow as Conan Doyle's Baker Street immortal on Friday, the fact that he bears a striking resemblance to the detective matters not at all. This is radio, and the start of a new Classic Serial which chronicles the meeting of Holmes and Watson and their first case together, A Study in Scarlet.
Clive, however, is simply delighted to be following in the radio pipe-smoke of Carleton Hobbs (and, more recently, Roger Rees), not to mention the footprints of Basil Rathbone, Peter Cushing, Michael Caine and Jeremy Brett...
He's also looking forward to working again with Michael Williams, the faithful Dr Watson of this adaptation. 'We had a very happy time together in the TV comedy series Double First,' he recalls.
In A Study in Scarlet, Conan Doyle depicted his creation as a man with 'sharp and piercing eyes', a 'thin, hawk-like nose' and a chin which had 'the prominence and squareness which mark the man of determination'. Clive, however, describes his own looks as 'a cross between Norman Tebbit and Jeremy Thorpe'. So how does he see Holmes? 'A mysterious, asexual genius.'
Holmes may be a first for Merrison but radio is where he started, having won the Radio Prize - six months with the radio rep - at Drama School. 'My first line was with Jessie Matthews in Mrs Dale's Diary and within a short while I was playing a leading role opposite Irene Worth.'
Though TV and the theatre now take up most of his time - he was Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing for the RSC last year and is currently making a second series of The Labours of Erica for Thames - radio remains his first love.
Clive was voted Sony Radio Actor of the Year in 1984 for his performance as John Osborne's Luther and he admits: 'That gave me more pleasure than if I'd won an Oscar.'
Classic Serial: A Study in Scarlet, Friday 3.00pm
Sir Arthur Conan
Dr John Watson:
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