Monday, 13 September 2010

Kaleidoscopic 2010 - Sherlock: The Story of a Modern-Day Adaptation: Steven Moffat and Sue Vertue in conversation with Maggie Russell

Kaleidoscopic, in its debut year, is a festival dedicated to adaptations, and what greater adaptation is there at the moment than the massively popular Sherlock? Now, as the many people I’ve ranted too can attest to, I wasn’t the series’ greatest fan, but, I am certainly in a minority, and it made listening to the fascinating production process of the series no less interesting.

Speaking to an understandably full house, Sue Vertue and Steven Moffat shed light on the genesis of what looks set to be yet another dramatic success for the BBC. What became apparent was the great love for the source material on the part of Moffat and fellow series writer Mark Gatiss, and the incredible team-leading skills of Vertue. Although I had the occasional moment of disagreement – girls do read Sherlock Holmes (see The Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes) – there was no faulting the direction the team behind Sherlock was coming from in making the series. To hear Moffat talk of his favourite Holmes (Rathbone) and emphasise the stories’ humour was certainly refreshing.

Equally as refreshing was the importance given to the results of a focus group conducted with the un-aired 60-minute pilot episode, which revealed interesting expectations from the audience: Moriarty, and drugs. It’s testament to the power of previous adaptations that what are really minor elements of Conan Doyle’s stories have become so associated with the detective. It’s perhaps a sign of a culture of ‘origin stories’ and reboots (Bond, Batman) that the two most recent adaptations of Conan Doyle’s characters – the BBC series and the Guy Ritchie film – have chosen forego the usual iconography of Sherlock Holmes and to return to the source text. That Moriarty is still so prominent is testament to what a memorable character Conan Doyle created in the first place.

A wonderful understanding of the character dynamics of Holmes and Watson was evident, with Moffat outlining that the audience has to like Watson if they’re to like Holmes – because if Watson likes such a cold, calculating bastard, then surely we can too! The various references in the series to Holmes being a psychopath neatly allow for his growth as a character, wherein, as Moffat puts it, he is humanised by a friend and ennobled by an enemy.

What’s clear is that there is a great team effort behind the series which will undoubtedly continue and improve into series two, which will consist of another three, 90-minute episodes.
Moffat seemed to believe that if you’re a fan of Conan Doyle’s stories then this is the definitive Holmes adaptation for you. I completely disagree, being a fan of the books and not a great fan of this series, but I will certainly keep watching as this series develops, as there are plenty of places this Holmes can go.

Kaleidoscopic was held at Glyndwr University, Wrexham, 9-11 September 2010. For more on Kaleidoscopic, visit Photo shamelessly stolen from Kaleidoscopic, where MORE can be found. Sherlock: The Story of a Modern-Day Adaptation was an event in association with BAFTA Cymru.

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