One cast member of Arthur & George, currently playing at Nottingham Playhouse, has received some help with his background research from an unexpected quarter. Here, Charlotte McCarthy from Boots encounters actor Chris Nayak, dressed as his character George Edalji, a real-life figure who became the subject of a notorious miscarriage of justice in Victorian England.
George’s case was taken up by none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, who did some sleuthing of his own and campaigned in the newspapers of the day to clear George’s name – and by an extraordinary coincidence, Charlotte, who works in Boots’ Archive department here in Nottingham, discovered some of those very Victorian newspapers just as the play on the same subject arrived at the Playhouse. The find was part of the Dolland & Aitchison archive, which Charlotte has been cataloguing following the recent merger of the two companies. She brought along the special editions of the Daily Telegraph headlined with THE CASE OF MR GEORGE EDALJI for Chris to see.
Boots spokesperson Victoria Ferrier explains the background:
“Following the successful completion of the merger between Boots Opticians and Dollond & Aitchison, Boots Opticians is now the second largest optician chain in the UK. The new business has an exceptional heritage – D&A was established in 1750 and the Boots brand was established just over 160 years ago. All D&A archive materials have now been added to the company’s extensive corporate records and archive department in Nottingham, and contain material relating to the study of eyes and the correction of eyesight. It is interesting to note that an article has been identified from the archives which refers to the real-life story behind the novel and play Arthur and George in which Arthur Conan Doyle is recruited to solve a serious crime alleged to have been committed by George Edalji. In the piece, it states that Conan Doyle concludes that Edalji could not have committed the crime he is accused of because he had extremely bad eyesight.”
Initially it was a mystery as to why a series of clippings about the case had survived in D&A’s archive, until Charlotte discovered the eyesight connection. It emerges that Mr Aitchison himself took a keen interest in the case and wrote to the Telegraph in support of George’s innocence. Conan Doyle’s campaign was ultimately successful and the case became a landmark in British legal history, leading to the foundation of the Court of Criminal Appeal.
Arthur & George, winningly adapted by David Edgar from Julian Barnes’ best-selling novel about the Edalji case, runs until Saturday 8 May and tickets are available from the Box Office on 0115 941 9419 or www.nottinghamplayhouse.co.uk.