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Saturday, 10 November 2018

In Koln, for the premiere of Sherlock, Das Musical

The instantly recognisable twin towers of Koln cathedral
Just back from a few days in Germany for the premiere of the Sherlock Musical. This has been a remarkable few months. It started with a chance meeting at a one-day class about social media. There I met Steve Collins Wilson, film-maker, and asked him if he fancied a follow-up meeting to talk about areas of common interest - and to sample the beer at our local.

When we met he had with him a friend, Bettina Montazem, co-director of the Urania Theatre:

The Urania Theatre, Platenstrasse, Koln.

All I remember of that meeting is that Bettina told me she was planning a musical about Sherlock as an old man. I asked when it was set, and she told me it would be around 1915. 'Oh great,' I said, 'you can  get in a lot of references to the Great War. Maybe have a Zeppelin raid on Baker Street.' That was when she revealed that the script writers she had commissioned had no such plans. They had never mentioned the war. A few days later she emailed me and asked whether, as a writer who had previously worked  in TV drama, I would like to be a script consultant.
'You mean picking holes in other people's work?' I replied. 'I'm your man.'
By the time we met again, she had sacked the script team and was... well, let's say that, with only five months left, and having sold the show to a number of other theatres in Germany, she was a trifle anxious. That's when she asked me whether I would have a bash at writing a script. Six days later handed her the first version.
Over the next 2-3 months we had several meetings in Koln and Durham. As a newly formed team,  Bettina, Steve, myself, and musical director Steve Nobles made amendments to the plot and structure, before leaving Steve N to go and write the songs.
We all knew, all along the line, that aiming for an opening night as early as November 7th was ambitious. When I went to the theatre last Monday (the 5th) to see a run-through of Act 1, all seemed well. It really sparkled. Then we started on Act 2. There were problems. Huge ones. I returned to my hotel at two o'clock in the morning with a sense of imminent doom.
All I can say now is that it is a huge tribute to the energy and dedication of the players, the crew and the director - and possibly some omnipotent figure in the sky - that our world premiere went ahead at all. More than that, and despite all the problems and crises, it was, I would say, a triumph. The audience loved it; the players loved it; and the one newspaper review we have had so far is full of praise. We know there are improvements to make, and that no show ever peaks on opening night, but we are immensely heartened by what we have so far.
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So, a great few days, a theatrical success, but this is not a time to celebrate. We need to regroup and turn a good show into a great one. Looks like another trip to Koln for me. But that's fine: I am growing to love the place. 
I once heard a former RAF pilot talking about the 'Dom', as this great edifice (above) is known. He was asked why it  suffered so little damage when the town around it, and the rail yards, were shattered. 'Simple,' he said, 'we made the cathedral our target, night after night. And generally, we missed it.'


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