National Theatre Live, Sherlock, Moriarty, Exhibition and More

Unlike Sherlock, I haven’t been hiding underground from assassins, however, I have been a bit busy. Over the past week, though, work has been interspersed with more enjoyable activities.

While I try to keep this site strictly for Sherlock Holmes, first let me encourage you to catch the National Theatre Live’s 50 Years On Stage presentation, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the National Theatre, while you can. I’m planning to catch a second showing at my area theatre. The outstanding performances are too numerous to mention, but  you really don’t want to miss Andrew Scott in an excerpt from the Pulitzer Prize-winning Angeles in America. It’s a heartbreaking scene and the range of emotions he conveys with his expression at the end of the scene is a true tour du force. And I have to thank Benedict Cumberbatch for making Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead both accessible and enjoyable. I’d seen two different stagings of the work, both of which left me unmoved and questioning the universal praise for Tom Stoppard. I now not only understand the work, I intend to read it soon. Mr. Cumberbatch had the audience both laughing and aching with the pain of the character and the existential questions of life, death, and eternity. And for Cabin Pressure fans (i.e., all of us), Roger Allam does an amazing monologue from the play Copenhagen, playing the same character (the physicist Heisenberg) Benedict Cumberbatch played in the BBC radio version of the play. (These are the moments when you realize just how incestuous — and talented — the British acting community is. But really, when you have this much talent of this caliber, how can you not enjoy them as much as possible.)

I’ve been traveling a minimum of 90-miles round trip to catch the National Theatre Live performances whenever I can for a few years now, and they have all been worth the time, the effort, and the money. Some of you, I’m certain, caught the Frankenstein presentation where Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller alternated roles. Given the derivative collection of films at your multiplex for a minimum £6, you’d get much more enjoyment for you money (not to mention actually enhancing your neurons) by spending £12, to catch the National Theatre Live broadcasts. In January you can see Tom Hiddleston and Mark Gatiss in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. Not one of Shakespeare’s most famous or more popular works, in part I think, because it deals with a more difficult and complex question about the responsibilities of public figures.

And speaking of public figures…

While attending OryCon in Portland, Oregon (8-10 November, 2013) to help promote Loncon 3 (the 72nd World Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention in London; your are going, aren’t you? I mean Eurocon is the following weekend in Dublin and Loncon is in… well, London!) and Sherlock: The Game Is On project (which is just BRilliant!), I saw the International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. It’s a wonderful excursion for fans of Sherlock Holmes — and their families and friends! The first part of the exhibit has things to fascinate fans of the Canon, including a portion of the Doyle’s original manuscript for The Hound of the Baskervilles in Doyle’s own hand and with his edits  and revisions. There’s also the official portrait of Dr. Joseph Bell that makes it clear that the physical description of Holmes is clearly based on Dr. Bell while additional information about Dr. Bell and his work highlight that Sherlock’s core methodology is also based on Doyle’s teacher and mentor. There’s a film clip of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle that makes it clear that the traditional representation of Dr. Watson, in the likes of Nigel Bruce, David Burke, Edward Hardwicke, and so on, is taken from ACD himself. And historical mystery buffs, along with Steampunk fans, will find the collection of  medical implements and specimens fascinating.

This continues into the second section of the exhibit which is an interactive presentation of the “tools of the trade” in Sherlock Holmes’ Victorian London. While I’m pretty well versed in most things Victorian, including the use of quite a number of poisons in cosmetics and toiletries, I thoroughly enjoyed trying all of the hands-on exhibits. The ballistics trajectory experiment (although using a laser light might be a bit of a 2oth Century cheat) was surprisingly challenging and I learned that taking rubbings, with the correct tools of the craft, is not as easy as it looks.

In the third part of the exhibit you attempt to find various items “hidden” amongst the clutter of 221B Baker Street. Here it helps to be familiar with the stories in Canon because the items are from the stories. I was bustling along until I hit the “wax bust with bullet hole.” I did a Homer Simpson “Duh!” when I realized the clue was referring to the bust of Sherlock Holmes from “The Empty House” and that I’d been staring at it for 10 minutes! For historical fans and Sherlockians, these tableaus were a delight, but the younger kids in attendance were eager to move on.

The interactive fun really hit its stride in the fourth part of the exhibit where we are invited to actually solve a crime. While the kids were having a good time, the adults were reverting to childish glee! Basically,  you must determine whether or not the police have arrested the right person. You make deductions based on experiments you do at various stations such as determining trajectories, type of impact, marks in the sand, even chemical analysis. You even get to test blood spatters at a slaughterhouse, which is not as gruesome as it sounds, although I suspect the faux meat carcasses hanging about gave the Portlandia vegans a bit of discomfort. One little boy could not be pried from the footprint test “devised by Sherlock Holmes,” so he became an unofficial staff member repeatedly racking the sand and then operating the device for anyone needing to use that station. When I left the area, he was attempting to sketch the construction of the device and I suspect there is now a backyard in Portland with a sand pit and a wheel that makes various boot prints when turned.

The last part of the exhibition is the history of Sherlock Holmes on stage, film, and other media. There’s a great deal of memorabilia from the Robert Downey, Jr. Sherlock Holmes films and from the television show Elementary, including some of the costumes and scripts. There’s a small collection from the BBC Sherlock, including the explosive vest John Watson wore at the pool, and a lovely quote from Mark Gatiss. The exhibit rounds off with some additional interactive stations on modern forensics and detection before spilling you out into the inevitable gift shop. Alas, there were no t-shirts in my size remaining (which begs the question of what they are going to do in December) so I came away with a silly green-screened photo of myself in a deerstalker superimposed upon a background of the Parliament buildings and Big Ben, a mug (like I really need another one), a pen (ditto), and a bag of Victorian candies. I was rather disappointed that there was a catalog of the exhibit with more historical information, but I suspect in this digital age, I’m one of the last to collect such things.

I have no idea what the travel plans are for the exhibit, but if you get the chance, I recommend it. It’s loads of fun and delightfully engaging. Although, I suspect for those of a nerdy or geeky mindset, you may run the risk of going home with the intention of developing your own hands-on forensics experiments. (My cats are presently tolerating my experiments in animal and footprints in various types of soils and conditions.)

And last, but far from least, while I plan to have some more fannish things like fan fic, holiday fun, the on-going Sherlock Holmes news feeds, and a run-up to Sherlock Series 3, for some of the best of Sherlock fandom, check out Anne Zanoni’s blog Ariel’s Miscellany… a la Sherlock. Just be prepared to lose and hour or two. 🙂

Laterz!

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