Arthur Conan Doyle – Man of Mystery

There's something wonderfully uncluttered and unpretentious about this particular wander down literary lane from the Mercators, one of Edinburgh’s oldest amateur drama clubs. Six performers, dressed up in an approximation of late Victorian/Edwardian dress, take it in turns to tell the biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, with some quotes from the man’s work to provide a little more ‘colour’. That’s it; arguably it should’ve been listed under ‘spoken word’ rather than theatre’ – for, notwithstanding the occasional attempts at conversation between some of the participants, this is definitely an example of ‘tell, not show’. There’s certainly no attempt to ‘try anything clever’; say, for example, imagining Doyle’s most famous literary creation – Sherlock Holmes – trying to investigate ‘the mystery’ of his own creator.

This is a straight-forward enough story, simply told, with neither rancour nor particular fire.

Except… what mystery? Although Fringe show titles inevitably have to be chosen some six months ahead of time – often well before the actual productions have been written – the reality is that “Man of Mystery” hardly seems an appropriate label for Doyle. The only puzzle presented at the start is the surprising fact that the author capable of imagining the iconic “consulting detective” (a man who considered emotions to be a distraction and hindrance to proper observation and reasoning) also personally believed in the occult and fairies at the bottom of the garden. Admittedly, Doyle was far from alone in the latter – particularly following the carnage of the First World War – but there’s simply no theatrical ‘meat’ here to satisfy anyone wanting some kind of answer to that particular conundrum. (A reference to Doyle’s disagreement with arch-sceptic Harry Houdini is notable by its absence.)

Thanks to John Kelly’s diligent research, and the generally clearly-spoken performance by the cast, you’re bound to learn something new about Doyle: perhaps that he studied at the University of Edinburgh at the same time JM Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, and Robert Louis Stevenson; or that he considered his historical novel Sir Nigel to be the “highpoint” of his literary career.

This is a straight-forward enough story, simply told, with neither rancour nor particular fire. For Doyle enthusiasts it arguably offers little, but for those curious to learn something more about the man behind Sherlock Holmes, this is at least a more entertaining way to accomplish that than just reading a page on Wikipedia.

Reviews by Paul Fisher Cockburn


One of Two

Scottish Storytelling Centre

Moira in Lockdown

Laughing Horse @ Bar 50

Love and Sex on the Spectrum

Royal Lyceum Theatre

Mrs Puntila And Her Man Matti


Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now



The Blurb

Since 2002, the Mercators, one of Edinburgh's longest established amateur theatre groups, have presented costumed, dramatised readings celebrating famous writers such as Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, Jane Austen and JM Barrie. This year we take a fresh look at Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – author, doctor and explorer, documenting his life with his own words and the words of his extraordinary characters such as Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Watson, Professor Moriarty, Irene Adler, Sir Charles Baskerville, Professor Challenger, Micah Clarke, Decimus Saxon, Brigadier Gerard and many more.

Most Popular See More


From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets


From £39.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Play That Goes Wrong

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Frozen the Musical

From £36.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Phantom of the Opera

From £27.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mamma Mia!

From £21.00

More Info

Find Tickets