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24 September 2014

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You are in: Devon > BBC Radio Devon > Behind The Scenes > Holmes is at home in Tavistock

Recording on location on Dartmoor

Recording on location on Dartmoor

Holmes is at home in Tavistock

A missing racehorse, a murdered horse trainer, a silk cravat and the curious incident of the dog in the night time...all of these things feature in Silver Blaze, a Sherlock Holmes mystery set in Devon.

BBC Radio Devon has been working with 10 local actors to transform Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's short story, Silver Blaze, into a new radio play.

Adapted by local writer Nigel Howells, this Sherlock Holmes story is set on moorland and in racing stables in and around Tavistock.

Silver Blaze tells the story of how the detective is brought in to solve the disappearance of the favourite for the Wessex Cup, and the tragic murder of the horse's trainer.

With help from The Wharf, the Tavonians and the Tavistock Musical Society, more than 30 local people auditioned for parts in this community drama.

Recording Silver Blaze

Nigel Howells (aka Sherlock) on a steam train

A week later, 10 new radio actors were rehearsing the mystery – mysteriously - in rooms all over the town.

The play, which is part of Radio Devon's developing drama work, was recorded in the BBC Plymouth studios and on location with the South Devon Railway and at the home of Baskerville Carriages in Princetown.

The play was first broadcast on BBC Radio Devon during Easter 2006.

Authentic accents, steam, and Tavistock hooves now tell the tale of the missing horse Silver Blaze and the murder of its trainer John Straker.

Conan Doyle’s characters are played by a local cast including two retired farmers, a colonel and an ex-policeman.

Here's who's who:

Marion MacBeth

In the studio: Marion MacBeth as Mrs Straker

Character: Mrs Straker:

Wife of the murdered horse trainer, 30s-50s, local accent. Slightly excitable (not giggly) woman of independent means.

Played by Marion MacBeth – safety engineer. Currently undertaking a BA in Theatre Studies with Rose Bruford College.

"I know nothing about horses, have never been widowed and have never made a mutton curry! However, I recently adapted and directed A Christmas Carol at The Wharf in Tavistock and have been a member of the Theatre Royal's People's Company since the first production in 1996."

Edith, maid to the Strakers:

Teens-20s. Timid (not giggly).

Played by Tracey Jones. "I have been interested in amateur theatre for a number of years, participating in many productions in and around Holsworthy. I saw Silver Blaze auditions being advertised and decided to attend. It has been a wonderful opportunity to participate in a truly local radio production.

Fitzroy Simpson, horse racing tout:

Well spoken, 30s-50s, fallen on hard times through gambling.

Played by Martin Taylor – retired farmer from the Tamar Valley.

 "I am a member of the Tavonians Dramatic Society in Tavistock and last appeared on stage in Much Ado About Nothing." Long time Trustee of the Devon Wildlife Trust, Devon Conservation Forum, Kingdon House Community Association in Tavistock and the Tavistock Homelessness Trust. Member of Tavistock Town Council too.

Some of the cast

Some of the cast at a recording session

Ned Hunter, groom to the Strakers:

In his 20s-30s, local accent, honest, hot-headed when it comes to touts.

Played by John Spear – retired farmer. "This is my first radio play and very exciting it is too! It is a departure from my other drama experiences which have all been in front of an audience.

"In my experience, the feedback from an audience actually helps control my nerves so the absence of watchers will be interesting. I was a member of Milton Abbot Players for about 15 years which was a fantastic grounding for more recent shows with Tavistock Musical Theatre Company.

Sherlock Holmes:

Classic sleuth, 40s-50s


Played by Nigel Howells – Head of European Funding, Learning and Skills Council. Married motorcyclist, former policeman and ex-pupil of Tavistock College.


"I lived for some years at Gulworthy, worked in the bank in Tavistock and once got knocked out in a bank robbery at Gunnislake! My interests are in detective fiction, radio drama and comedy. I also act in murder mysteries and play the melodeon at folk rock ceilidhs."

Dr. Watson, classic companion:

In his 40s-50s. Whilst not able to make the leaps of insight that Holmes can make, has common sense.

Played by Bill Pavey – Suspended ceiling fixer and lover of real rock 'n' roll and the countryside.

"I moved to Mill Hill near Tavistock in 1991 and became interested in acting then when I auditioned for a community production at Theatre Royal Plymouth and was cast in the role I wanted. My ambition is to play King Lear." Member of the Tavonians Theare Company, Tamartians Theatre Company and Theatre Royal People’s Company.

Inspector Gregory, local police inspector:

40s-60s. Not stupid but an effective policeman who is driven by procedure and traditional thinking.

Played by Pete Feehan – lived and worked in Okehampton for many years.
Performed air show and outdoor commentaries at Eaglescott Airfield and Exeter Airport including the VJ Day celebrations for the Burma Star Association. "I was briefly part of Exeter's hospital radio service but this is my first venture into radio acting."

Colonel Ross, Kings Pyland stables owner

50s-60s. Pompous local 'squire' who gradually gets to feel that Holmes is not all that he's cracked up to be.

Played by David Farrant – Retired Colonel and Accommodation Inspector for Dartmoor Tourist Association. Served in Aden, Borneo and Northern Ireland. MBE for services with the army cadet force. Military attaché in Portugal. Defence attaché in Brazil and Guatemala. "I am now a presenter with Talking Newspapers for the Blind, a bell ringer in Peter Tavy, a keen Dartmoor walker and a Tavistock bowler."

Silas Brown, Capleton stables owner:

40s-60s, local accent. Tough but not cruel to the horses.

Played by Mark Starr – Claims Inspector. "I discovered acting seven years ago and have appeared on stage, screen and now on radio. I have performed with a large number of companies including the RSC, National Theatre, Rambert Dance Company, Theatre Royal People’s Company and Tavistock’s Tavonians. I'm a foot soldier for the Green Army of Plymouth Argyle too."

Bookie, racecourse bookmaker:

Ready with the odds.

Played by Chris Swann – working for the Department of Work and Pensions. Has worked as an extra on Casualty, Wycliffe, French and Saunders and Down to Earth.

"So far, my only lines were the words 'sorry, no luv.' Probably no Oscar there then. I wrote and was Dr Fraud (not Freud!) for three months on radio. Learning to ride at the moment and play the Yamaha wind midi controller."

Silver Blaze was produced by BBC Radio Devon.

last updated: 08/04/2008 at 14:12
created: 07/04/2006

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