Sherlock Holmes

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Sherlock Holmes is the name of the famous character created by Arthur Conan Doyle (and thus also a character in numerous dramatic works, films and other media), as well as the name of a specific play based on the stories.

Sherlock Holmes: The character

The stories

Sherlock Holmes, who refers to himself as a "consulting detective" in the stories, is known for his proficiency with observation, deduction, forensic science, and logical reasoning that borders on the fantastic, which he employs when investigating cases for a wide variety of clients, including Scotland Yard.

The stories featuring Holmes (narrated by his friend and biographer "Dr. Watson") first appeared in print in 1887's A Study in Scarlet, and soon the character's popularity became widespread as the first series of short stories appeared in The Strand Magazine, beginning with "A Scandal in Bohemia" in 1891 and continuing till 1927. In the end there were four novels and 56 short stories.

He was not the first fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes but is probably the best known.

Stage adaptations featuring the character Sherlock Holmes

According to Wikipedia[1], over 25,000 stage adaptations, films, television productions and publications featuring the detective had appeared by the 1990s and the Guinness World Records lists Holmes as the most portrayed literary human character in film and television history.

Some of the stage versions of the tales (or plays featuring Holmes) that have been performed in South Africa are listed below. For information on productions of the play in question, see the entry on that specific text.

Sherlock Holmes (1899) by William Gillette and Arthur Conan Doyle (See entry below.)

The Speckled Band (1910) by Arthur Conan Doyle (also known as The Stonor Case).

Sherlock Holmes: The play

Sherlock Holmes is a four-act play by William Gillette (1853–1937)[2] and Arthur Conan Doyle (1859–1930)[3]

The original text

Based on Conan Doyle's popular character, and inspired by a request from the American theatrical producer Charles Frohman for rights to the stories, Conan Doyle wrote a five-act play featuring Holmes and Professor Moriarty. Frohman, who felt that the text was not ready for production, suggested that the actor/playwright William Gillette be asked to rewrite the play.

The new play drew material from the published stories "A Scandal in Bohemia", "The Final Problem" and "A Study in Scarlet", with additional new material. In view of the origins Conan Doyle was credited as a co-author, even though Gillette wrote the play.

The play, featuring Gillette as Holmes, had three previews at the Star Theatre, New Jersey, opening on October 23, 1899, and then moved to the Garrick Theatre on Broadway, New York, where it premiered on November 6, 1899. It was produced by Charles Frohman, with incidental music by William Furst and scenic design by Ernest Gros. The production toured the USA and moved on to London's Lyceum Theatre in September 1901.

Translations and adaptations

A silent film version of the Gillette/Conan Doyle play, also entitled Sherlock Holmes, was made in 1916.

Performance history in South Africa

1902-3: Performed as Sherlock Holmes (using the Gillette/Conan Doyle version) by Leonard Rayne and company at the Opera House, Cape Town, under the auspices of the Mouillot-De Jong Company, as part of a season of musical comedy and light opera beginning in December of 1902 and running into 1903.


D.C. Boonzaier. 1923. "My playgoing days – 30 years in the history of the Cape Town stage", in SA Review, 9 March and 24 August 1923. (Reprinted in Bosman 1980: pp. 374-439.)

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: p.414

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