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March 5, 2024

COLIN BAKER in conversation with KATE ASHMEAD

The Hound of the Baskervilles – A Radio Play Live on Stage is coming to Harrogate Theatre on FRI 26 APR. Colin Baker tells us more about his experience playing Sherlock Holmes.

Kate Ashmead: Do you remember when you first encountered Sherlock

Colin Baker: Sherlock Holmes was always a favourite of mine. When I was at school, if you won a prize, they were always books – you were allowed to choose your own book, within reason obviously. I chose, for two of my prizes, the complete long stories of Sherlock Holmes, and the complete short stories of Sherlock Holmes, which I still have at home with the little Upper Fourth Handwriting Prize certificate, because I enjoyed reading them and I read them avidly.

Kate: What is it that appeals to you about playing Sherlock Holmes?

Colin: The English language means a lot to me, and I love the writings of people like Conan Doyle and H.G. Wells. So the idea of bringing him to life is something I never anticipated, but I was brought up watching all those wonderful Basil Rathbone movies and adored him, I thought he was wonderful. They’re such cracking good stories, and they stand the test of time, and I’m going to portray him now – it’s all rather exciting!

Kate: What have been your favourite theatres roles?

Colin: I’ve been so lucky and had lots of really good touring productions I’ve been in. I’ve played Inspector Morse! The last tour I did which was about six years ago, when I played Inspector Morse on stage, and that’s a role I never thought I’d be asked to play – I loved doing it. I was very lucky as a young actor – I started professionally acting in 1969 and I was on telly a year later.

Kate: And which television parts have you most enjoyed?

Colin: Well there was The Brothers, in the 1970s, and I was drafted in to play a couple of episodes, because I knew the producer and he’d remembered that I’d studied law, and it was to play the part of a merchant banker, who had a lot of that kind of language. He asked me as a favour to come in and do it, and they liked what I did and they wrote the part up and I was there for three series, which was wonderful. I was voted the most hated man in Britain!

And then of course after that was Doctor Who, so I went from arguably the most hated to being perhaps the most loved character on British television. The best thing about the Doctor is he’s that masked stranger who rides into town and puts everything right and then leaves again. Who was that masked man, you know? It’s in that tradition. And to play that part, having seen the very first episode – if you’d told me then that a few decades later I would be that character! Well at that point, being an actor was what I did in my spare time, as an amateur actor, which I think is a very good lesson for anybody – you never know what you can do. You just never know. There have been parts I thought I might get and didn’t, but also things I thought I’d never get and did – so you have to go for your dream!

Kate: Why should people come to see The Hound Of The Baskervilles?

Colin: I think people should come and see The Hound Of The Baskervilles because I’m in it! Seriously though, also because it’s such a good story. It’s a story we all think we know, some people might know it quite well from various adaptations, but we perhaps don’t really know the original. The joy of this production is that nobody is trying to create the moors of Devonshire on a stage. What we’re doing is allowing you to do what I think drama does best, to listen.

The amount of times I’ve been in my car listening to a play, and have reached my destination and stayed there, because I was so involved in the action…It’s limited only by the imagination of the audience, because we will give them, everything they need to create the ‘pictures’ for themselves, and it’s a very exciting project – I’m looking forward to it!

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