Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

A not so elementary tale

George and Arthur

In rehearsal: Matt Ludlum as George Edalji (left) and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle played by Scott Bradley

Arthur and George

Hall Green Little Theatre


IT WOULD seem a good idea in terms of copyright, that if you cannot create a new work by a famous fictional character, then the next best thing is to build one around the author in the same style.

That’s pretty much sums up the approach of Julian Barnes's novel ,Arthur and George, that is based on the real life events of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle working to correct an injustice and unravel the local mystery of George Edalji.

 Edalji was imprisoned in 1903 for mutilating livestock and was a respected Birmingham solicitor so the story clearly has something of a strong local interest.

Enter then, David Edgar, whose adaption, first staged in 2010 by Birmingham Rep, drew criticism that seemed to concentrate on the comparisons of the book and play. Four years on this seems something of a mistake as Hall Green Little Theatre delivers the play in their studio space and shows that it stands alone without comparison.

The play works through a series flashbacks. Edalji was the son of a Parsee-born vicar with a Scottish mother. He was accused and sentenced, suspected of being part of the Great Wyrley gang and playing an active part of their cattle mutilation. After what seems like a series of unsubstantiated prejudices he is sent to prison for seven years. He served three years before approaching Conan Doyle who believes him to be innocent and in a very Sherlock Holmes manner, sets to finding out the true culprits.

The play, directed by Margaret Whitehouse, which works through a series co-ordinated flashbacks began a bit shakily but once Scott Bradley playing Doyle got into his stride his confident and engaging performance seemed to lift the entire preceding’s . This was again strengthened by Katherine Williams as Jean Leckie, Doyle’s new love interest following the death of his wife. Both Williams and Bradly have completed some formal drama training, which is rare amongst amateur companies, and this was clearly evident as both were excellent in their respective roles.

Another trained actor is Eden Voss as Anson, the legal counsel for Edalji, who with Bradley delivered a sharp and very convincing scene that explores Doyle’s fanaticism as an amateur sleuth and Anson’s view of the cold facts and suggested conclusions in the eyes of the law.  

Matt Ludlum played George and at times was a little unsure of his character but even though not appearing at all Asian he does bear something of a resemblance to the real Edalji

Nice supporting roles came too from Kalpana Vaughn Wilson who played as Maud Edaljis’ sister with Darren Summerhill as Woodie, Doyles sort of surrogate Dr Watson.

Skillfully playing three roles was David Edgar, (not the writer,incidentally) as Cambell, Butter and Greatorex respectively and he managed a range of accents from Black Country to West Country with the Queen’s English in the middle.

It’s surprising that this complex play of Law and racial prejudice has taken this long to resurface again as it is certainly topical and the complexity of the issues certainly creates a great deal of discussion and thought.

Added to that is the fact that this is based on a Birmingham story it makes the association with Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes a great deal more than just a `Brummie whodunit. ‘To 21-06-14.

Jeff Grant


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