Miles Kington: Delivering 'The Death of Tchaikovsky' on the cheap

'My experience of cannabis and Bernard Matthews turkeys is pathetically limited, however I do have some experience of Tchaikovsky'

Share

Is it extraordinary that David Cameron tried cannabis when he was 15?

I don't think so. It would be stranger still if he hadn't.

Is it extraordinary that Bernard Matthews has tried ingesting Hungarian turkey, and finds it very hard to give up?

I don't think so. Once you have got the cheap turkey habit, it's hard to kick it.

No, if it is something extraordinary you are after, then the best place to look right now is Radio 3. Which is where there has been a week-long outbreak of Tchaikovsky, powerful enough to drive out all other kinds of music, except for traces of Stravinsky.

Experts are baffled. They say that there is no reason for this sudden epidemic of Tchaikovsky. Usually, when this sort of thing happens, it is because there is some sort of centenary, bicentenary or other anniversary involved. But look at Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's dates. He was born in 1840 and died in 1893. Not even the controller of Radio 3 could get a centenary out of that.

Maybe the controller has just been infected by the man's music. Which is fine by me, except that I wish I had known in time so that I could have got involved.

You see, although my experience of cannabis is pathetically limited, and although my experience of turkey is confined to running a mile from anything coming out of the kind of torture chambers run by Bernard Matthews, I do have some experience of Tchaikovsky.

I would go further.

I am probably the only writer on The Independent to have written a play about him.

This goes back to the year 1996, when my wife, an ace theatre director, was looking for an hour-long piece of theatre to take up to the Edinburgh Fringe. I had already written one or two things for her, including a play called Waiting for Stoppard. This time, however, she could only afford two performers and a bit of music. One of the performers would be Simon Gilman, because he was an excellent musician and songwriter. The other would be me, because I came cheap.

So between us Simon and I cooked up a brilliant hour-long musical play called The Death of Tchaikovsky - A Sherlock Holmes Mystery. This was based on my realisation that when Tchaikovsky died in mysterious circumstances in St Petersburg in 1893 (some say it was cholera, some suicide), it coincided exactly with the period when Sherlock Holmes had gone off incognito on his travels after "disappearing" in the Reichenbach Falls.

Conan Doyle mentions that one of the countries he visited was Russia. He might well have been there when Tchaikovsky died and might have been called in to help solve the mystery of the great man's death.But as we developed the plot, something darker emerged. Tchaikovsky, we knew, loved visiting Switzerland and roaming the hills. It was not impossible that he might have witnessed the fight between Moriarty and Holmes at the Reichenbach Falls. And therefore Tchaikovsky might have been the only witness of the fact that it was not Moriarty that perished in the Falls, but Holmes!

To throw off pursuers, Moriarty, also a master of disguise, adopts Holmes's persona and goes travelling. His main purpose is to track down the one witness, Tchaikovsky, and eliminate him. This he does successfully in 1893 ...

Pretty ridiculous, eh? Oh, it got a lot more ridiculous than that before the end, I can tell you. But we had a lot of fun, and sold out our tiny venue, and ever since then The Death of Tchaikovsky - A Sherlock Holmes Mystery has been awaiting revival.

The Tchaikovsky Experience week on Radio 3 would have been ideal.

As it is, I may have to hang on till the year 2015, which, of course, is the 175th anniversary of Tchaikovsky's birth.

See you then.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Critics of Fiona Woolf say she should step down amid accusations of an establishment cover-up  

Fiona Woolf resignation: As soon as she became the story, she had to leave

James Ashton
 

Letters: Electorate should be given choice on drugs policy

Independent Voices
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes