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Setting fire to a caravan, being knocked off a motorbike, falling down a mineshaft and accidentally killing yourself with a shotgun - life as a soap opera character is fraught with danger.

Setting fire to a caravan, being knocked off a motorbike, falling down a mineshaft and accidentally killing yourself with a shotgun - life as a soap opera character is fraught with danger.

It’s nearly a quarter of a century since accident-prone Jackie Merrick departed from Emmerdale Farm in the late 80s - but fans haven’t forgotten him.

The actor who played Jackie may have kissed goodbye to his boyish looks and lustrous locks but Ian Sharrock still gets recognised for his best-known TV role. “Look at me,” he said, “ I couldn’t look any more different than when i had a lot of hair, wore wellies and had a sheep in my arms. Yet people still come up to me in supermarkets and say: ‘ it’s you, you were in Emmerdale, weren’t you’?”

That kind of reception sounds worthy of another character which Ian played on television - the obsessive fan Jed Maxwell in I’m Alan Partridge. “Doing that role was terrifying because it was all ad-libs and no script,” he said.

So what has been Ian’s worst experience since leaving Emmerdale? “Joining Rumpus Theatre Company,” he said

He’s joking, of course, because he’s been wowing crowds around the country with his portrayal of Dr Watson in Rumpus’s touring production, Sherlock Holmes: A Study In Fear.

The play is a new adaptation of Conan Doyle’s detective story The Final Problem, written by the company’s founder John Goodrum, who lives in South Wingfield.

Ian, who is starring alongside David Martin as Sherlock, said: “My Watson is nothing like the guys on television. I am trying to go for the relationship between Holmes and Watson - they were so close they were like brothers.

“It’s a Boy’s Own adventure, a full-on energetic yarn. Every night I feel like I am 15 again.”

Final stop for the production is Chesterfield’s Pomegranate Theatre where it runs on October 26 and 27.

See p?? for a feature on another thriller which Rumpus is bringing to Chesterfield.