• Morgan Fagg

The Case of the Mystery Black Spot

Updated: Oct 19, 2019

Putting on my detective hat but leaving most of the work to professional actors.

I was invited to see a comedy based on the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in a theatre in Lavapies and I joined my friend and his husband to see The Hound of the Baskervilles. My girlfriend couldn't make it which was a pity as Anna really likes Sherlock Holmes too. This spot of English comedy was excellent even though one of my friends fell asleep.


It was his birthday and he had been drinking and he was a little tired and drunk.


Three actors took to the stage with technician Tracy Scott above them controlling the smoke machine and lights while the audience filled the intimate setting where there was seating for about 40 people.


Unlike Anna, I’ve never read any of Sherlock Holmes' adventures but have enjoyed various versions on television and in the cinema and I am always impressed by the imaginative way people tell these classic tales.


To me, Sherlock Holmes is set around the time of Jack the Ripper at the end of the 19th Century but two fantastic versions have been created in recent years that drag the English sleuth into the 21st Century.


Elementary is an American production set in New York with several excellent series and Sherlock has been an extraordinary BBC production but with only a few feature length episodes in each season.

In the cinema, Robert Downey jr has done an excellent job playing the English detective and has been joined by Jude Law as Dr Watson.


The two films have been directed by Madonna’s husband Guy Richie who is famous for films such as Snatch and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.


Guy Richie’s last film played two chess masters against each other beautifully and sequenced a series of moves against Prof James Moriarty and Sherlock Holmes.


Apparently Richie spent a lot of time on set playing chess with the cast and crew.

Similar to the modern films, Elementary has taken two great actors, Johnny Lee Miller as Sherlock paired up with an Asian American Joan Watson played by Lucy Lu.


In Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman team up again for the action packed adventure that is set in a modern London.


Both actors have worked together in the Lord of the Rings films where Freeman played The Hobbit Bilbo Baggins and Cumberbatch voiced the dragon Smaug.

Since then, Freeman has played a CIA agent in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Black Panther and Cumberbatch has gone on to play Doctor Strange who teams up with another Sherlock Holmes when Doctor Strange meets Iron Man in The Avengers. Iron Man being played by Robert Downey jr.


I believe there is a respect for Arthur Conan Doyle and his creation Sherlock Holmes and even as a comedy there is huge respect for the role. (I'm ignoring Will Ferrell's version where audiences have apparently walked out of it.)


Sir Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3 villain) played a super smart Watson who had to pick up the pieces for his own fabricated detective played by Michael Caine in Without a Clue.


This comedy in Madrid was played superbly by three actors and the play was the classic Hound of the Baskervilles.


A play about a dog doesn’t normally interest me yet I have always been impressed by the many different ways the hound has been recreated.



Futurama’s The Honking is my favourite one where a were(wolf)car haunts Bender to the moors but both Sherlock and Elementary have created modern versions of a 21st Century hound.

On a smoke filled stage, the three thespians

John Gregory, Robert Crumpton and Steve Loader acted out each scene where the Watson/ Holmes bromance appears a little more homoerotic for comic value than we have seen before on television.


Just last week I asked my girlfriend if Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot was gay while she was watching Problema en el Mar.


My turn-of-the century Gaydar probably isn’t very accurate but between Poirot’s appearance and quirks and lack of love interests, I can’t help but wonder if the Belgian detective isn’t playing for the other team. There is a limit to the number of romantic cruises one can go on together with their best friend before people start raising an eyebrow and J. Edgar Hoover starts investigating your lifestyle.


Murder She Wrote

Poirot is incredibly camp in my opinion but it could be the influence of a female writer or the performance of the actor who played him for so long.

Despite numerous names playing the role from Orson Wells to John Malkovich, I am only really familiar with actor David Suchet who played Agatha Christie’s Poirot for a quarter of a century and was only killed off in the 13th series on the 13th of November 2013.

Suchet was so successful in the role that when the 2017 Murder on the Orient Express was teased to audiences, Belgium’s most famous policeman only appeared at the end of the trailer.

Anna quickly questioned if I thought that Sherlock Holmes was gay too and I responded that not only was Watson married but they addressed the gay vibe in the modern Sherlock when Benedict Cumberbatch says that he is married to his work but flattered when Watson asks him the awkward question about partners.


The immaculately dressed Poirot always seemed overdressed for a morgue or murder scene and apparently the character was always getting his well polished shoes dirty much to his annoyance.

The new film was fantastic and I loved how the trailer for Murder on the Orient Express didn’t reveal Keneath Brannagh’s Poirot until the end.


Even in Spain and in real life, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie’s influence can be seen and I noticed an unusual HEADline on the news this week.


El Caso de la Cabeza en una Caja which translates as the case of the head in a box.

What’s in the box?

I’m guessing it’s not Gwyneth Paltrow’s head this time nor Pepper Potts but Mrs Iron Man could have been better saved by either Iron Man or Doctor Strange’s Sherlock Holmes than by her actual partner at the time Brad Pitt.


Brad Pitt teamed up with Morgan Freeman for the fantastic detective drama Se7en but even Martin Freeman has played a better detective’s friend when it comes to rescuing "The Woman" than Morgan Freeman has for Bradd Pitt.


A CUT ABOVE: Could Dr Watson and Sherlock Holmes have saved Pepper (Paltrow) Potts?

Sticking with the Marvel/ JRR Tolkien theme, Martin Freeman and actor Andy Serkis who played Gollum in Lord of the Rings were the only two white actors in Black Panther earning them the title "Tolkien white guys" and one very white gay guy got to play Sherlock Holmes too.


Gay activist Sir Ian Mckellen who played Galdalf the Grey and Galdalf the White, got to trade in his wizard hat for the detective hat in the 2015 film Mr Holmes.


Stephen Fry has made an appearance in The Hobbit films with Martin Freeman, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ian McKellen and also played Robert Downey jr's brother Mycroff Holmes but a little closer to home, I noticed at the weekend that I had a mysterious bruising on my arm after watching the show in La Escalera de Jacob in Calle Lavapies. A deep black mark on my left arm’s bicep similar to the kind of marks I have sustained while doing lifesaving courses in the past.

I wonder what the Sherlockesque sleuth, William of Baskerville would have made of the mysterious black mark which reminded me of the Sean Connery film, In The Name of the Rose where a number of monks died with a black mark on their thumbs and tongues and the Franciscan friar William of Baskerville investigates while his assistant takes notes.


I wasn't worried about the mysterious black mark and didn't need to see a doctor but Holmes apparently inspired House where Dr House and his friend Dr Wilson take a medical twist on the classic Sherlock story.


There is no denying that these detective series have inspired us and our thinking and in the 1978 film, Death on the Nile starring Peter Ustinov as Poirot, his co-star went on to outshine the Belgian detective. Wherever you find murder and denial you guessed it Watson, you will find a part for Dame Angela Lansbury who played her own version of Agatha Christie, when you think about it, with 264 episodes of Murder She Wrote airing between 1984-1996. By comparison Agatha Christie's Poirot ran for 70 episodes but Poirot was just one of Agatha Christie's detectives after all.


Meeting with my friends in Plaza Mature a few days later, my friend Carlos mentioned a mysterious black mark on his arm which he wondered if it was a mosquito bite that had got infected or something and I quickly put on my Sherlock hat outside my home and said, “It was your birthday and you had been drinking and were tired and drunk” the bruising on both of our arms could easily be explained by the fact that I helped to carry him home which would have applied pressure as he tried to hold on to me and I tried to help support him.


Elementary really.


#IBelieveInSherlockHolmes



Playdate's next performance will be on 24th of October at 9.30 in La Escalera de Jacob.



ONE OF US: Amélie Yan-Gouiffes captured this wonderful recital by Lance Tooks at the Open Mic night in Lavapies last week whose poem was inspired by Agatha Christie's Diez Negritos.



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