April 1st, 2011

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Dedicated to my English teacher, Mike Birks, and to the genius that is Mark Gatiss.

Credit: aithine

My English teacher at secondary school, Mike Birks, used to be my inspiration. Mike sadly passed away last year. I feel so bad about this because he singlehandedly gave me my passion for theatre, drama and English Lit. He brought it all to life for me. He taught me how to write. He knew I was a theatre geek and that I loved theatre, but he did not live to see me write about theatre, write about my passion etc. That makes me sad.

However, Mr Gatiss ... you have taken on Mike's mantle ... you are my new inspiration.

Shout out to Mike and Mark!
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Undershaw Preservation Trust

I am the London rep for the Undershaw Preservation Trust (UPT) and I am responsible for all UPT publicity in the London area. I am also responsible for managing the network of national and international representatives. Mark Gatiss is the Patron of UPT.
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The Undershaw Preservation Trust meets The Sherlock Holmes Society of London

I am the London rep for the Undershaw Preservation Trust (UPT), responsible for managing the network of national and international representatives. Last Thursday (17 March - the day of Frankenstein NT Live, Benedict as Creature), the Undershaw Preservation Trust met the Sherlock Holmes Society of London. The meeting was successful and productive and the Society left the meeting with a deeper awareness and understanding of UPT's aims, objectives and work.

Left to Right: Rakshita Patel (London UPT rep), Lynn Gale (Assistant Director UPT), John Gibson (Director UPT), Guy Marriott (President of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London), Sue Meadows (Assistant Director UPT), Roger Johnson (Editor of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London's Journal). The meeting took place in the Sherlock Holmes Pub.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle by Jean Upton, unveiled on 22 May 1994. Jean Upton is Roger Johnson's wife.

Photographer: Rakshita Patel
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Mark Gatiss's Speech to the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, 2006

The Adventure of the Missing Transcript

This is Mark Gatiss's Speech to the Sherlock Holmes Society of London's Annual Dinner, which he gave in January 2006.

Photo credit: Jean Upton

The speech is a genius piece of writing. The writing (this is Mark we are talking about after all) is wonderful, funny, intelligent, cannonical, clever ... I could go on and on.

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Special Sherlock Screening at the Clapham Picturehouse, followed by Q&A with Mark and Steven

On Thursday 6 January 2011, there was a special Sherlock screening at the Clapham Picturehouse, followed by a Q&A with the series creators and writers Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat.

Please note this photo is not from the Clapham screening - it is just the best photo I could track down of Mark and Steven together.

The screening was of The Great Game which made me happy. After I had found out that TurkFox was coming, and that she was coming as Jim, I SO wanted them to screen this episode (and the fact that Andrew Scott is very easy on the eye and a positive joy to watch with his mental performance is by the by!!!). Also I love the opening scenes of Sherlock shooting at the wall, the head in the fridge, the solar system conversation, and the EXPLOSION!!!


I have grouped this into themes.

Reinvention of Moriarty
They started the Q&A talking about the reinvention of Moriarty in Sherlock. Historically, Moriarty has always been played as the epitome of English evil. The Chair made the point that in Sherlock they had gone for Irish camp!!! Mark Gatiss said that because Andrew Scott was playing Jim, and Moriarty is an Irish name, they wanted to keep him Irish. The other things they wanted to convey was the fact that Jim is lethal and it was important to them that the audience found him to be a believable villain, not a pantomine one. Steven Moffat used the words suave, sinister and accomplished and Mark Gatiss stated that they wanted to make him frightening, unpredictable and exciting. In my humble opinion, Andrew is all of those things (and more!!!).

Collaboration and co-writing
They talked a bit about how their collaboration and co-writing actually works in practice. They do not write the episodes jointly in a room together as if they did that there would be too much chatting and not enough working!!! But Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss both said that each episode was the result of “endless conversations”, so they talk and exchange ideas a lot, and both were involved in all three episodes.

Creation of Sherlock
They spoke about how the original idea for Sherlock was formulated on their numerous train journeys to Cardiff together as writers for Dr Who. They spoke about their shared passion and obsession with Sherlock Holmes and how the idea of an updated modern Sherlock Holmes was born out of that. Something that would blow the fog away and bring the characters once more to the fore.

Favourite Sherlocks
They spoke about how for both of them, one of their favourite versions was the Rathbone/Bruce versions (I really must get these out and watch them!!!), especially those set during the war. What they liked about this version was the essential “Doyleness” of the stories yet the fact that Holmes and Watson had been brought up to date. They wanted to do the same ie take the original stories and set it in the present day. The pitch to the BBC was a modern Sherlock Holmes.

The Heart of Sherlock
They talked about the fact that the friendship and the love between Holmes and Watson was what was at the core of the stories for the two of them. Steven Moffat expanded by saying that Sherlock Holmes would be insufferable without John Watson and John Watson would be a dead man without Sherlock Holmes. This emphasised the symbiotic nature of the relationship between the two men for me. They both agreed that the compelling relationship between the two men was at the heart of the stories and they were keen to capture this on screen.

Mark as Mycroft
Mark Gatiss joked about how he had cornered the market in playing the brothers of the heroes!!! He also joked about Mycroft Holmes not being in the pilot and how when the pilot was shown to the BBC the BBC had loved it but had said “But where is Mark Gatiss? We want Mark Gatiss!!!”. The BBC had also wanted 90 mins not 60 mins. Steven Moffat explained that you can’t just bolt on an extra 30 mins so he had had a rethink and this is when he had the idea of putting in the Moriarty arc right from the start and bringing in Mycroft Holmes. Obviously, the audience were supposed to think that Mycroft was Moriarty. This is the reason why Mark is not credited – they felt that once the casting was released, it would be in the papers and the conceit of Mycroft being Moriarty would be spoilt for the audience.

First meeting between Sherlock and John
Steven Moffat talked about how little the first meeting between Sherlock Holmes and John Watson has been dramatised and how they were keen to start their story right from the beginning. He also made the point that it was fortuitous that there was a war ongoing in Afghanistan “Yes we have suffered terrible losses, but there are plus sides too”!!!.

Keeping faithful to the Canon
Mark Gatiss talked about how they pillage the best bits from the Canon and how this was something that was done by the Rathbone/Bruce series. And how they wanted to be as reverent to Holmes and Watson as Arthur Conan Doyle was ie not!!! That said, he made the point that he actually believes Sherlock to be remarkably faithful to Canon. More so than some of the straight adaptations set in the Victorian era.

Steven Moffat talked about how many people had commented on how great the Sherlock flogging a corpse scene/concept was and how they had complimented him, believing him to have come up with it. It is of course there in Canon!!! Mark Gatiss made the point that there are huge chunks of Canon that are just never done despite the stories being so famous and so well known and adapted so many times. He enjoys finding those moments and putting them in Sherlock!!!

He then gave the example of the meeting of Stamford and Watson, and how they had made the coffee sleeves Criterion coffee sleeves to mirror the Criterion restaurant where they dine in Canon. Interestingly (well for me at least!!!), Steven Moffat said that these little touches were not put in to keep the purists happy, but was something that they positively enjoyed, that these little details were “fun” and that getting the details correct was important to them. Their Sherlock was jam packed with “loving attention to detail”. He also made a joke about how they had been to the Criterion for the pilot but could not afford to go back, and so the park scene with the coffee was the result of budget constraints!!!

The other little detail they referenced was James Phillimore who appears in Study in Pink as one of the victims when he returns home for his umbrella but is one of the unsolved cases in Canon (yes that is one for the geeks!!!).

Sherlock Holmes Society, London
This titbit I did not know. Mark Gatiss talked about Sherlock Holmes fans and dismissed the idea that they were a bunch of anoraks. He said that a few years ago he addressed the Sherlock Holmes Society of London in the House of Commons and took Steven Moffat as his guest. He made his pitch for a modern Sherlock Holmes and far from being a bunch of “ossified fossils” they loved the concept and the pitch (I am so glad I joined the Society now!!!).

Being in charge of two big British icons
Steven Moffat talked about running Dr Who and Sherlock in 2010, two big British cultural icons and what would have happened if it had not worked out. He joked about the potential for “driving a tractor across all significant British culture”. That all he would have to have done in addition was shot Daniel Craig in the face and then he would have had the full set!!!

Sherlock and Dr Who
Steven Moffat talked a bit about the similarities between Sherlock and Dr Who. How they are both superior kinds of beings. How they both have an everyman assistant. How they are both outsiders. Steven Moffat talked about an early programme note for Dr Who where the note was to make the Dr more like Sherlock Holmes.

Steven Moffat also joked about having the most impressive cheekbones in the UK in his two shows and about how he feels inadequate in that Twitter photo of him with his boys and their cheekbones!!!

Steven Moffat felt that the Dr was actually a nicer person – he was kind, sweet, bumbly and funny. Sherlock Holmes is altogether colder and nastier. Dr Who is an alien aspiring to be a human, and Sherlock Holmes is a human aspiring to be a god.

Sherlock as a character
Mark Gatiss talked about audiences being attracted to characters who are interesting, and said that it was precisely the flaws and foibles of the character that made the character fascinating.

He talked about John Watson humanising the character both in Canon and in Sherlock. By the end of episode 3 it is clear that Sherlock does have a heart, as Jim discerns, he is no longer just a cold calculating machine.

He spoke about how, growing up, Sherlock may have been torn between good and evil and chose good because it is harder and more challenging.

Steven Moffat spoke about how characters who misbehave and break rules are the interesting ones and the ones you want to watch. Life would be fairly dull otherwise!!!

Steven Moffat spoke about how the arc was for Sherlock to go from being a great man to a good one. That he was to become wiser and more humane over time, due to John’s influence. He spoke about Sherlock becoming a better man over time. Mark Gatiss talked about Sherlock Holmes’s casual coldness but how, towards the end of Canon there is a chink in the armour, shown in The Three Garridebs which comes out when Watson is shot.

They then spoke quite a bit about Aunt Sally being the embodiment of evil and Una’s amazing performance in Worzel Gummidge. Mark Gatiss described her performance on the show as cruel, funny and sexy. This went over my head a bit but they did say people should watch it so maybe I should do that!!!

Going beyond Canon
They spoke about how Canon was not just Arthur Conan Doyle but wider popular culture too. Mark Gatiss spoke about The Private Lives of Sherlock Holmes in particular (I really must watch this!!!) as being something to draw down on and a masterpiece in its own right.

Mark Gatiss made a joke about how when he had spoken to Christoper Lee the advice that he had been given was to never be photographed in your own home as it was an invitation to burglary!!!

Sherlock’s costume
Someone asked about dressing Sherlock and commented on how he often wears his long coat and scarf indoors!!! Mark Gatiss joked back that had he actually been to Cardiff during the months of January to May?!!! They explained that the suits were well made and sober, that the shirts had colour, and The Coat – well they had struck lucky with that one!!! Mark Gatiss talked about the collar looking just right when it was turned up. They had added the red detail. They also talked about Sherlock wearing the Coat being a very recognisable silhouette.

Canon hard to adapt?
Both Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss had felt that updating Canon was relatively easy. The thing Steven had baulked at the most was calling them Sherlock and John. That was tough. He commented on the fact that whilst Sherlock was now Sherlock, people still called Martin’s character Dr Watson rather than John, probably because John is such a plain name. Mark Gatiss said the other tricky part was the pipe and the drugs but they had turned this into a joke with the nicotine patches etc. Mark then said that the other difficult part was the whole forensics issue. Sherlock Holmes was the only one doing forensics in his day. Now it is routine police work. So what would Sherlock be doing that was different/special? They felt that what Sherlock was doing was that he was simply the cleverest man in the room and that was what he brought to the party. Only his brain could make certain connections.

Mark Gatiss also commented on how he had worked so hard to put 5 stories into one episode and people never commented on that aspect, only the swimming pool scene. He also talked about how hard it was to write the ingenious deductions – so hard that even Arthur Conan Doyle stopped doing it. Hence the number of stories starting with the “although this did not test/show my friend’s deductive capabilities, the case was nevertheless so bizarre/strange that …”!!! He stressed the point that whilst people want deductions, it is the relationship between Holmes and Watson that is the key to the stories and their appeal.

Hero moments
Steven Moffat talked about how it was not really about the solution/detective story aspect for him it was about giving Sherlock “hero moments”. In his Study in Pink episode he had a choice of scripting a clever way of trapping and ensnaring the villain or putting Sherlock in jeopardy and risking his life and he chose the jeopardy route. In the episode, the murderer confesses all so Sherlock does not have to do much figuring out of who it was, but what there is in the episode is an exciting denouement when Sherlock gets his hero moment.

Mark Gatiss emphasised the fact that these stories are “adventures”. They are thrillers. They are fun.

The Gay thing
Both Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss said that if two men were so close and living together in this day and age it was inevitable that people would question/ask whether or not they were a couple. This was natural. However, Steven Moffat said upfront that “sex for Sherlock Holmes is thinking” (bang goes my Sally theory!!!). Mark Gatiss said that Sherlock and John love eachother but not in a sexual way. However, they both acknowledged that people were fantasising all sorts with their characters and that this was allowed (we are all off the hook then!!!). They said that for them this was not a gay/sexual relationship but if others want to make it so that was fine and they were welcome to do so. I found this refreshing and very similar to Arthur Conan Doyle’s own approach to his creation.

Actors influencing characters
There was a question about how much the actors had an influence over their characters. Mark Gatiss said that both Benedict and Martin’s personalities had been imprinted on the characters. He spoke in particular about Martin Freeman having “funny bones” and it being interesting him playing it straight. Interestingly, Mark Gatiss also said that he has the actors in his head when he is writing and so the actors and their ways/styles of playing the characters has a direct influence on his writing.

Paul McGuigan as Director
There was a lot of talk about Paul McGuigan’s love of wallpaper. The Chair made the comment that this dominated conversations so much that you would think that Paul’s main contribution to a production was his choice of wallpaper!!! But Steven Moffat made the point that Paul first used the floating text in episode 3 and then he (Steven) liked it so much he decided to use it and build it in to his own episode eg text messages received during Lestrade’s press conference.

From the Pilot to the show
They discussed the changes that had been made to make it from 60 mins to 90 mins. The flat became messier and – of course – acquired THE WALLPAPER!!! The flat is meant to be a Victorian house that modern people live in, as is seen across the whole of London. It also had to be a bachelor’s flat. Mark Gatiss made the comment about Mrs Hudson originally running the sandwich shop next door but that not working out so it was ditched. Steven Moffat said that he had no regrets re moving from the pilot to the final version. The pilot he felt had been amazing when he had seen it, but he felt that it was pale and slight next to the screened version. Mark Gatiss said that the one line that he regretted losing from the pilot was the line “all the rest is transport” as this to him was a line that summed up Sherlock ie a portable brain!!!

House – specially for Thirteen!!!
This was interesting. Steven Moffat was quite clear that the House main character was not Sherlock Holmes. Yes the little details were referenced eg having a sidekick named Dr Wilson (is that right?). But the House character is a manic depressive who is unhappy. For Steven, Sherlock Holmes is “happy in his own skin”. He may be a compete bastard but he is happy with it!!! He cited both Rathbone and Benedict as people who had successfully conveyed the completely unrepentant Anglo-Saxon bastard!!! Mark Gatiss also felt that whilst there were superficial resemblances the characters were very different because House was depressed.

Adapting short stories
Steven Moffat spoke about how they had both taken bits and pieces from different Canon stories and worked it into their episodes. They had to do this as no one short story provides enough material for 90 minutes – the only exception being Hound. You need a big story to last 90 mins. That said, there was a lot that was new. Steven spoke about episode 2 being a code book episode – they had wanted to do one of these as there are so many in Canon – yet the story is almost entirely new. Mark Gatiss mentioned the Greek Interpreter as only being significant because of the introduction of Mycroft, the case itself being quite perfunctory. He also talked about how no one adapted the 5 Orange Pips because of the KKK connection. He talked about Yellow Face and the racial aspect to that story which made it harder to adapt but he personally liked the story as it was one of the cases where Sherlock Holmes gets it wrong!!!

Series 2
As we all know, Adler, Hound and Reichenbach. It starts shooting in May so it won’t be ready in time for a summer showing (sorry Marie!!!).

Advice for budding screenwriters
Steven Moffat joked that there was no room for new screenwriters – they had cornered the market!!! No room at the Inn!!! Mark Gatiss said that the way to break into the market was to work hard, stick at it and write something good. He cited the example of Douglas Adams who had just plugged away at home on the dole for a couple of years in order to write.

Mark Gatiss admitted to being an avid collector and reader of Sherlock Holmes pastiches, including very bad ones!!! He observed that everyone wanted to tackle the big popular things like Moriarty and Hound but few people focused on the smaller domestic stories/tales. He was happy to do the smaller stuff eg fake painting story but it was important that the stakes were high, in that case people were dying.

Both Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss were well aware of the fandom in all its guises but said that they do not look at it because if would be the “end of your life if you look”. This was because for every positive comment there would be people slagging off your work and hating what you are doing/have done with the characters. So best not to go there. However, as I said, they are aware of the fandom, acknowledge its presence and are happy for us to do what we want with the characters.

copyright © Rakshita Patel 2011
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Mark Gatiss Talk, National Theatre

At the National, Mark Gatiss, who is currently playing Bernard in Season's Greetings, talked about his career and current role, and answered questions.

Photographer credit: Catherine Ashmore

copyright © Rakshita Patel 2011

Al Senter, the Chair, introduced Mark as the “multi-talented multi-tasking” Mark Gatiss. He said just looking at Mark’s CV makes him need to “lie down in a darkened room”!!!

Mark plays Bernard, the sad puppeteer, in Season’s Greetings which is currently playing at the National. Mark has been in rehearsals since October and he spoke how it had been good to just concentrate on that one thing and nothing else. He was enjoying doing the run and would love to do more theatre.

Mark said that he had “auditioned” for the part of Bernard – he had wanted to do the role. He said that the 1986 BBC TV version of the play had left a “profound impression” on him. He said that he had always wanted to work here at the National (I think you all know how I feel about the National – it is one hell of a special place) and so being in Season’s was like a “Christmas present.”

Mark said that Alan Ayckbourn had described Season’s as a “play set in a hallway” with two uncles – one good and one bad. But it is not necessarily as clear-cut (black and white) as that because it is not always the case that Bernard is the good uncle and Harvey the bad uncle, there are many shades of grey to each of the characters. In terms of Bernard not always being “good”, he cited the example of Bernard bullying Pattie in the puppet show scene.

Mark talked specifically about the puppet show (which is genius by the way!!!) and the fact that the puppet show has 16 scenes with endless puppets. Bernard feels that the children should enjoy the puppets. Mark spoke about his own experiences of relating to children at Christmas and how for his own family he used to read the entirety of the Christmas Carol and do all the voices!!! He felt very strongly that children should not be playing with electronic games and gadgets but they should be listening to the classics. He very quickly learnt that ultimately it was up to the children what they did and what they enjoyed!!!

Al asked him where he felt the humour in Ayckbourn came from. Mark replied that there were a lot of funny lines but that Ayckbourn had a reputation of being middle class. He said that the appeal of the play came from the fact that it was universal and that it was about people. He said that Season’s was “shot through with bleakness”. Al commented that the play heavily featured the wrong people married to eachother!!!

Al asked Mark whether he had had any prior experience of manipulating puppets. Mark said that no, he had not. He had practised with a professional puppet company but they were using much smaller puppets and so when the National fronted up with their larger versions he was taken aback!!! He said it was also hard because the puppet show in the play is supposed to be terrible and not very good. Mark had had frequent nightmares of being pursued by giant puppets!!!

This next section moved me because it really struck a chord with me. Mark spoke about how TV characters had been his “playmates”. As a child, he had been fascinated by TV. He had one best friend and was not lonely. But “TV was a friend to me”. (TV was a huge friend to me too!!!). Mark said that he had spent far too much time watching television - a lot of it bad television!!!.

Mark spoke about how Dr Who was his favourite. He had loved Dr Who from the moment he had seen it with Jon Pertwee. He talked about the first episode that he had watched which was the one in which the shop window dummies come to life. He described the first episode as “incredible” and the second one, featuring the Daleks, as a “phenomenon”. Mark said Dr Who was the “spine of his career”.

Mark said that to write and star in Dr Who was a “boyhood dream come true”. When they had brought it back, it was a delight. Mark said that he had starred in it after extensive lobbying!!! He actually said that the call to star in it had come out of the blue. He was over the moon to get a chance to star in it. He also said that the last day of shooting on it was the day of his 40th birthday and so he had had the best time imaginable.

Mark spoke a bit about how all those involved with the League of Gentleman had met when they were training at Bretton Hall. Whilst it was a terrible course, they tended to do their own stuff. He said how the League of Gentlemen had been pitched to Mark Thompson, the current Director-General of the BBC, and Mark Thompson had said “I do not want this thing – why do you keep bringing it to me?!!!”.

They then moved on to Sherlock (Yippee!!! Party party party!!! Sherlockian cocktails all round!!!). Mark explained how Sherlock has been conceived by him and Steven Moffat on their train journeys back and forth to Cardiff for Dr Who. They had come up with the idea of a modern Sherlock Holmes in a train carriage which Mark felt was very Sherlock Holmes. Both Mark and Steven loved the Basil Rathbone version where Sherlock Holmes had been updated to the present day and was on the trail of Nazis and code breakers. He felt that although this version updated Sherlock Holmes to the present day, it was in keeping with the spirit of the original adventures and this was what he and Steven wished to do. They had both been struck by the fact that Dr John Watson in the Canon was returning from Afghanistan and that now this could be the case again. Mark and Steven had been talking about adapting Sherlock Holmes to the modern day for a long time, but it was Sue Vertue, Steven’s wife, who finally said “Let’s do it!!!”.

Al asked how Mark felt that Sherlock had gone down with the Arthur Conan Doyle purists. Mark described how 5-6 years ago he had been invited to speak to the Sherlock Holmes Society, London at their Annual Dinner in the House of Commons. (I am now a member of this Society and it is absolutely fab!!! Everyone there has been massively welcoming to a newbie so I want to give a shout out to the Sherlock Holmes Society, London!!! Their website is: http://www.sherlock-holmes.org.uk/). Mark said that he had thoroughly enjoyed saying “I am afraid that I have to go now … I am speaking in the House!!!”. Anyway, the Sherlock Holmes Society, London is one of the oldest Holmes societies in the world and when Mark pitched his idea of a modern Sherlock, Mark said that all the members pretty much “loved it down to a man”.

Mark also told the story of how he ran into John Simpson at the BBC and was able to say “You have been in Afghanistan I perceive!!!”.

Mark said that some people may perceive it as heretical bringing Sherlock Holmes into the modern world, for example texting, but he argued that Sherlock was actually incredibly faithful to the Canon and there were a huge amount of Canonical references in there (I agree with this 100%!!!).

Mark spoke about how in the modern day, two men living together in a flat would mean that people would naturally assume that they were a couple, and that he and Steven had turned this into a running joke in Sherlock.

Al asked him what it was like being an executive showrunner on Sherlock. Mark said that that meant that he had power and he liked “to abuse it!!!”. He said that it was actually fantastic although it was also a big responsibility. Mark explained how on the second day of filming there had been a huge snowstorm and it had been a huge operation to get the cast and crew out. Then the day after, Martin Freeman managed to injure himself, when he was on his way out of his trailer. Mark said that he was expecting a “plague of locusts” next!!!

Mark stated that what made both Dr Who and Sherlock a success was that neither show was drafted by committee. The BBC had trusted Russell T Davies’s vision on Dr Who and they had trusted the Gatiss and Moffat vision re Sherlock.

Mark talked about the casting on Sherlock. He said that it was all about getting the right “fit”. They had auditioned Matt Smith for the part of Dr John Watson but they both felt that they had got a Sherlock Holmes already – they didn’t need another one!!! So Matt Smith was not right for Dr John Watson. Three days later however, they cast him as the Doctor. Benedict and Martin just “fitted” together perfectly.

The second series of Sherlock is going to be Adler, Hound and Reichenbach. Mark is writing Hound. Al asked him to say a bit about it. Mark said that it was going to feature a dog and that Sherlock Holmes would be in it!!! He was trying to put some of the “ambiguity back” into the second series!!!

The second series of Sherlock will be airing in the Autumn. The first series was also supposed to air in the Autumn, but ended up airing over the Summer in July, traditionally in the “dead slot”. As it turned out, that worked brilliantly. Sherlock received a huge amount of coverage and won critical and public acclaim.

It was then time for questions.

Someone asked if Mark planned to write any more Lucifer Box novels. Mark said no, he was not a natural novel writer. It was too much hard work!!!

Someone asked what should they do if they wanted to be an actor or a writer. Mark joked “Stop - there is not enough room on the stage”!!! He then said that it was a simple matter of hard graft, “arse to chair, pen to paper”. It was also often a matter of luck – being in the right place at the right time. He also said that there were plenty of people who were famous who didn’t deserve to be, and plenty of people who deserved to be famous who just, for whatever reason, had not received their break yet. It was also, of course, a matter of raw talent!!! He again encouraged anyone who had aspirations of being an actor or a writer to just stick at it and not give up. Keep plugging away. (This was very much what he said at the Clapham event).

Someone asked him what it was like to play real people who are still alive, for example Mark played Bamber Gascoigne in Starter for Ten. Mark explained that it was difficult because if someone was still alive the public expected you to do a good impersonation of that person. Whereas, obviously if you are playing Robespierre or Rembrandt, that is not expected!!!

Someone asked about what Mark felt about being called “the next Stephen Fry”, especially now that they were both playing Mycroft. Mark mentioned the photos that has been taken recently of the two Mycrofts together. He joked that he would have liked to have had Christopher Lee photoshopped into the background!!! He said the film and the TV versions of Sherlock Holmes were two completely different things. They had shot the pilot for Sherlock before the Guy Ritchie film came out. He joked that without putting too fine a point on it, Stephen Fry bore more of a physical resemblance to the Mycroft in the books ie he was more portly than Mr Gatiss!!!

Mark talked about how Sherlock Holmes’s family was introduced in the Greek Interpreter. How the family attributes had been passed down. How Dr Watson had believed that Sherlock Holmes’s deductive powers were unique and that Sherlock Holmes says in the Greek Interpreter that no, in fact his brother Mycroft has even greater deductive and reasoning powers and possesses these qualities in a higher degree. It is just that Mycroft is too lazy to use these powers to the best effect!!!

I had been itching to ask a question right from the beginning and, by this stage, was literally jumping up and down in my seat!!! Al Senter, the Chair, just didn’t see me and there were so many other people there who wanted to ask questions so I just couldn’t get in!!! I did eventually get in – I was the very last question but Mark only had one minute in which to answer my question!!!

I am going to give you my whole question in all its glory because I had written it down and because, despite the fact that I go to well over 50% of the Platforms (talks) that the National runs, this is only the second time I have actually asked a question!!!

I said:
“I saw Season’s on Friday. It was outstanding and your puppet show was priceless. However, I wanted to ask a Sherlock question. Sherlock so beautifully captures the spirit of the original Canon stories and has so many Canonical references. Can you say a bit about how you personally get from Conan Doyle’s source material to an episode of Sherlock, because I just don’t see how you do it!!!”.

Mark had one minute in which to answer my question!!! He said that sometimes the adaptation came easily, for example turning the five orange pips into the Greenwich pips. Others things were harder. Both Mark and Steven had both tried to squirrel away as many Canonical references as possible within the Sherlock episodes that they had written. He said that the story structure of the Hound was very strong and so that should prove relatively easy to adapt (rather him than me!!!).

And then the time was up.

Mark was kind enough to hang out in the foyer after the event to sign things and have photos taken. I took along a print that I had bought from the Sherlock Holmes Museum (their website is here: http://www.sherlock-holmes.co.uk/) which features Sidney Paget’s illustrations. It has Sherlock Holmes in the centre and then a montage of illustrations from a range of stories, including The Dancing Men, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Bruce Partington Plans, and the Final Problem. It is to die for!!! And now that it has been signed by Mark, it is priceless as far as I am concerned. I will treasure it always.

A perfect end to a perfect day.

Photographer credit: Catherine Ashmore

copyright © Rakshita Patel 2011
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Raks's return to the Anglican Church after 25 years away!

I am posting about this Sunday, which was when I went to an Anglican service for the first time in 25 years!

My foray into fandom has been a baptism by fire. I have had huge highs where I am floating on Cloud 9 and I have also had the blackest days of despair when I have retreated to the National for comfort and solace.

What the experience has made me realise is that I want a regular spiritual/moral message that I can work on over the week. So I thought that now was the time to return to the Anglican Church.

My family are Hindus. But I went to an Anglican primary school. Our vicar came to talk to us every week and we regularly attended Church. My parents were comfortable with that. So comfortable that they allowed me to read a poem I had written about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane out in the Easter service. I regularly took communion too.

My secondary school was supposedly non-faith based but we sang hymns in Assembly and almost always had bible readings as part of Assembly. We studied the Bible in religious education. We regularly went to Church services.

The messages of Christianity on a very basic level have always resonated more with me than the messages of other religions, including my family's religion - Hinduism. The fact that within the Anglican Church the services are in English makes the messages accessible to me. In a temple the mantras and the prayers are in Sanskrit and therefore completely and utterly meaningless to me. I cannot work with them or use them in any way - I have no clue what they mean.

On one of my darkest days in fandom, I met someone at the National. We got chatting about every topic under the sun. We are both National geeks. We have become good friends very quickly. She was my second ticket when I day ticketed Frankenstein. Benedict as Creature. She loved it! She is a member of an Anglican Church.

The Church is All Souls. It is based one minute from Oxford Circus. They are here:

So on Sunday I went along. It was amazing. Their strapline is "Growing an international community to reach a multi-cultural society for Christ". They have a congregation of 1,000 people. They have all ages - babies and toddlers to OAPs. They are international and diverse - all races and nationalities were there. They have a building that is architecturally stunning. They have a full orchestra and a choir. They have sermons, based on the Bible's text but illustrated and brought to life by personal stories and film clips. They are open, welcoming and friendly. I loved it and I got a lot out of it and I am going every Sunday - they run 3 services each Sunday and I will definitely be able to make one of the three services that they are fronting.

Key messages I took from my visit:

From a hymn sung by the choir:
"On Christ, the solid rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand."

From a hymn:
"Saviour, thank you for your love,
the love that gives me shelter from the storm.
Held in your wounded hands,
for ever I will stand,
safe beneath the shadow of your cross."

The Lord's Prayer - I have missed you in my life!
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kindgom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen.
This is a slightly different version to the one I am used to but the words are so powerful.

The words I have cited above are strong and powerful. I can use these messages in my day to day life.

I have nothing to fear and I am safe. This is what the National also makes me feel! I will be returning to All Souls next Sunday. I firmly believe that I met my new friend at the National on that day (one of my darkest) for a particular reason. It was fated.
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The Swivel Theatre Company

Swivel's strapline is classic theatre … with a twist. Their aim is to perform two shows a year, and to support various charities and local projects through their work. They want to inspire people to love theatre as much as they do.

They are here:

Othello is here:

Please do check these websites out. They have videos which show how they went about planning and putting the production on. They have interviews with their cast. They have a video of how they put their fight sequences together.

Anyway, they are AMAZING – check them out and tell me what you think!!!

On Sunday 13 February 2011 I went to see a production of Othello by the Swivel Theatre Company at Barons Court Theatre. The production blew me away. I have never in my 20 years of theatre going written in to a theatre company about their production. I have never written to the National for example.

However, this is the email I sent to the Swivel Theatre Company on Monday 14 February:

Dear Swivel Theatre Company

I am a major London theatre geek and have been hacking around the London theatre circuit for about 20 years. I am a Supporting Cast Member at the National, a friend of the Old Vic, and a friend of the Globe. Last night I saw your production of Othello at the Barons Court Theatre.

To put it simply, I was blown away by it – it is OUTSTANDING.

I knew nothing about you and went to see the production purely because it was Othello. I am an Othello obsessive and every time there is a production of Othello in London I am there!!!

I had assumed (wrongly as it turns out) that you were a youth theatre company. Anyway, you were amazing … outstanding … genius!!!

I have seen over 50% of the productions that the RSC are currently fronting at the Roundhouse. Your production of Othello blew the RSC out of the water!!!

All the actors were outstanding but in particular I wanted to mention Tom Stanley as Cassio and Tom Fava as Iago. Please tell them both that I loved them!!! I have seen countless productions of Othello and they are by far and away the best Cassio and Iago I have seen in a long long time!!!

Anyway, what I would like to say was that I would like to find out more about you and get involved. Is this possible? Let me know how best to take this forward.

Best wishes and very well done on such a sensational production!!!


Swivel Theatre Company came back to me the very next day. They were made up by my email. The producer had sent my email round the whole of the theatre company and they were bouncing off the walls!!!

I met them for coffee on Wednesday 23 February. They fronted their Director, their Producer and their Finance Manager all to meet little old me!!!

Swivel Theatre Company began because a household of slightly bored Londoners were desperate for some good theatre … so they decided to produce it themselves. Sitting round the kitchen table one evening the idea of Swivel was born …

Othello was their first production. The director was a first time director and the producer a first time producer. They all have full time jobs and put this production together in their evenings and weekends. They are a bunch of 20 something Londoners. They are young, lively, enthusiastic and I love them all to pieces. They are the sunshine in my life.

I have said that I will try and help raise funds for them to be able to put Othello on for another 3 week long run in London.
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My tribute to Mycroft

I give you Mycroft ...

Photo credit: aithine

From: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SherlockHolmes

Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock's Aloof Big Brother. Sherlock acknowledged that Mycroft's mind was sharper than his own, but his skills were largely wasted due to his exceptional sloth: almost nothing piqued Mycroft's interest enough to lure him out of the familiar surroundings of his favorite private club. Mycroft was some sort of government functionary, whose official duties were limited, but "In certain cases, Mycroft is the British Government."

From: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SherlockHolmes

Mycroft could easily have been a detective himself, but as he explains in The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans he loathes the idea of doing the legwork needed to actually gather the facts he'd need to make his deductions.

Canon Quote:

"Why do you not solve it yourself, Mycroft? You can see as far as I."

"Possibly, Sherlock. But it is a question of getting details. Give me your details, and from an armchair I will return you an excellent expert opinion. But to run here and run there, to cross-question railway guards, and lie on my face with a lens to my eye -- it is not my metier. No, you are the one man who can clear the matter up. If you have a fancy to see your name in the next honours list --"

The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Adventure of the Bruce Partington Plans was of course Mark's main source material for "The Great Game" episode that he wrote for Sherlock.
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My tribute to Nick Hytner, Artistic Director, National Theatre

There is someone I love, respect, and admire more than Benedict Cumberbatch and more than Mark Gatiss. Who is it?

Nick Hytner, the current Director of the National Theatre.

Photo http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/theatreblog/2008/mar/14/theatreonsundays

The National cleaned up at the Oliviers this week and people who won the awards all complimented Nick in their acceptance speeches. He has done phenomenal things whilst he has been at the National, in terms of opening it up to new and diverse audiences - I particularly commend the Watch This Space festival which runs over the Summer, and the amazing contemporary revivals that he does of classic plays like The Man of Mode. He has brought in NT Live, which makes the National truly National and, indeed, International. He has also landed the most amazing corporate partnership deals - the most recent being one with the American Express - which has enabled him to keep ticket prices reasonable (the best value theatre in London).

This is Nick's vision for the National:

So welcome to The Umbrella Organisation Nick Hytner and let us give it up for Nick!

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Mark Gatiss, Patron of the Undershaw Preservation Trust, visits Hindhead

I am the London representative for the Undershaw Preservation Trust. Mark Gatiss is the Patron of the Undershaw Preservation Trust and we all feel very honoured and privileged to have him as our Patron.

On Friday 11th February 2011, Mark visited Hindhead to meet John Gibson, the Director of the Trust, and Lynn Gale, the Assistant Director of the Trust, for the first time. Read all about it, and check out the amazing photos, here:

Lynn said that "The meeting was very successful and Mark is very much the gentleman that I had imagined him to be. Instantly you feel as though you have known him for years, feeling very relaxed in his company." Having met Mark, I agree with her 100%. He is the nicest man on the planet!!!