Sunday, 29 July 2012

The Doctor's Dilemma - review

Written by: Peeny (@AdamPeeny)

Where's Peen been?
National Theatre, London
Was Peen keen? 

A cure for tuberculosis has been found, right on time. Louis Dubedat (Tom Burke) is dying of the disease – unfortunately, though, not everybody deems him worthy of curing. Funny that, isn’t it?

Sir Colenso Ridgeon (Aden Gillett), the recent genius, is being congratulated in his consultation rooms (beautifully designed by Peter McKintosh) by friends and fellow doctors; all of who love their job. The doctors engage in friendly debate over their careers and experiences, including which has killed the most patients in their time: sure to keep the audience chortling. All the while, we see Colenzo fall in love with Jennifer Dubedat, wife to Louis Dubedat who only loves himself.

Throughout, the production is crammed with cracking one-liners and predictable but very likeable gags. The entire audience has an array of characters to connect to, presented by a cast of flawless performers both young and old, Burke in particular is a cheeky delight to watch on stage: a classic case of stealing the show. The performance is funny when it needs to be funny; biting when it needs to be biting and moves you when you expect to be moved. Director, Nadia Fall, has created a completely true realisation of a play that can have you laughing through tears – kudos.

Where the production has flaws is in its length; presenting what is originally a five-act play in two acts was a brave decision and it does grow somewhat tiresome. Luckily, the talent shines through and I for one remained totally admiral of the quality performances I witnessed. The slick changes between scenes are stunning and smooth, too. Whilst the play has aged, so has some of the content and comedy, but this also makes it a kind of celebration. A celebration of British health care and its progression over time being a country where we don’t have to pay – or in the case of dying Dubedat, plea – for treatment. It provokes thoughts surrounding love, commitment and the NHS with a gigantic, beautiful story to tell: the kind of production where sympathy lies completely in the hands of each spectator to distribute as they wish.

It is a clever programming decision by the National Theatre, if a little dated, and has the potential to exude British pride to any Olympic tourists trying out an evening of London culture at the Lyttleton. And as observed by the doctors, “we don’t find out nothing without experiment”. It provides an opportunity for one of Bernard Shaw’s classics to be enjoyed again, sure to leave whole audiences in complete awe every time. 

The Doctor's Dilemma runs at the Lyttleton, National Theatre until September 12th 2012. 

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