The Remarkable Performance of Frederick Merridew by Bert Coules, adapted from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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BBC Radio 4, 26 December 2008
Is there no limit to the range of possible adaptations of Conan Doyle's work? I was prompted to ask this as I listened to The Remarkable Performance of Frederick Merridew. All the familiar plot elements characteristic of a Sherlock Holmes story were there - a murder in mysterious circumstances, a police inspector convinced he had an open-and-shut case, a penetrating series of deductions by Holmes (Clive Merrison) and a satisfying dénouement proving beyond all doubt that Merridew (Hugh Bonneville) and his wife (Jill Cardo) were the guilty parties. The drama ended with an unexpected twist as Merridew proved himself Holmes' equal in terms of mental agility and refuted all of the great detective's allegations. All Holmes could do in response was retire to his Baker Street flat in Dr. Watson's (Andrew Sachs') company.
What this drama proved is that adaptations do not necessarily need to be considered in relation to source texts, but can be considered as works in their own right. Universal Pictures realized this in the 1940s when they produced a series of propaganda films with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Holmes and Watson, most of which had little or nothing to do with Conan Doyle. The same applies to this new series of BBC productions spread over four Friday afternoons; The Remarkable Performance of Frederick Merridew was inspired by a single reference in one (unnamed) story.
Merrison and Sachs formed an ideal double-act as Holmes and Watson: Holmes with his deep schoolmasterly tones, Watson appearing acquiescent but with an occasional touch of asperity in his voice, almost as if he resented Holmess relentless self-absorption. As Merridew, Bonneville proved a worthy adversary, who understood the importance of resisting Holmes' accusations and if possible returning them with interest. The climactic dialogue between the two of them resembled a verbal tennis-match, with each one trying to score off the other. Eventually Merridew emerged the winner - not because he was more intelligent than Holmes, but because he was a proficient actor. After all, he had spent most of his recent stage career playing a murderer and getting away with it, so it was an easy task for him to do the same in real life. This entertaining Afternoon Play was directed by Patrick Rayner.