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Roger returns to his roots to bring Holmes to city

By Herald Express  |  Posted: December 20, 2012

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ROGER Llewellyn brings his one-man show, Sherlock Holmes...the Death and Life to Exeter's Northcott Theatre tomorrow.

You don't need to be Sherlock Holmes to see why Roger Llewellyn (pictured) has made Conan Doyle's character his own for the past 14 years.

This most quintessential of English actors embodies everything we have ever imagined about Conan Doyle's most famous creation... with some acid humour thrown in.

The RADA-trained actor had appeared in many Royal Shakespeare Company productions before finding himself starring in the 1988 stage production of Sherlock Holmes — The Musical.

He played bumbling Inspector Lestrade in the show, which premiered in a five-week run at the then Northcott Theatre before heading to the Cambridge Theatre in Covent Garden.

"That production was a very big thing for the Northcott at the time," said Roger.

"We were in Exeter for 10 weeks in all, with the rehearsals before the run."

During the late 1980s Roger worked with the artistic team at the Northcott, appearing in a number of the theatre's productions – including The Hound of the Baskervilles.

"I have some good friends in Exeter," said Roger. "And yet, although I have taken my Sherlock Holmes to theatres around the world, this is the first time I have been able to bring it to the Northcott, so I am delighted. It will be wonderful to be back on the stage where I spent a large part of my early career."

Little did he know in 1988 at he would be back at the Northcott at Christmas 2012, playing the role of Sherlock in a story he commissioned.

Sherlock Holmes... the Death and Life is the second play written specially for him and follows the hugely successful Sherlock Holmes... The Last Act (1999).

Both plays are penned by David Stuart Davies, who spotted Roger playing Holmes in the Northcott's stage production of The Hound of the Baskervilles.

"He liked my acid humour treatment of the role," said Roger. "So we did the Last Act and we took it to Edinburgh, where it had five stars. From there, it went on to London and New York. After nine years, my co-producer suggested we did a new play and David Stuart Davies wrote Death and Life."

So does all of this mean Roger, who is a familiar face in TV dramas, has a real affection for Holmes?

"I'm not especially interested in Sherlock Holmes," admits Roger. "I don't dislike the character; it's just that it's a good part for me to play."

The Last Act and the Death and Life are brand new stories, so and they've gone down well with Holmes fans.

"They love it," said Roger. "The London Society of Sherlock Holmes is hugely supportive, as is the New York Society of Sherlock Holmes.

"My Holmes is more psychological and has a more modern slant. This type of treatment has also been made popular in the television adaptations with Jeremy Brett and Benedict Cumberbatch.

"Conan Doyle hated Sherlock Holmes. He was a serious writer and he only wrote it for the money. When he killed him off, people wore black armbands and the offices of the Strand magazine (where the stories were published in instalments) were besieged. So he had to bring him back."

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