Review – The Doctor’s Dilemma, National Theatre

Friday 20 July 2012

The Whingers have to make big decisions too you know.

Phil was so incandescent when he heard incandescent light bulbs were being phased out that he stocked up forgetting that most of his home was already lit by halogen down lighters anyway, with just one lamp (which he rarely switches on) using the old bulbs.

He never learns (he was the same when gas lighting was phased out). There’s no chance he’ll get through all of them in his lifetime. What should he do with his box of 50 bulbs?

In George Bernard Shaw’s what-it-says-on-the-tin play The Doctor’s Dilemma bachelor and newly-knighted Sir Colenso Ridgeon (Aden Gillett) is also in a quandary. He treats typhoid, the plague and has developed a new treatment for tuberculosis. If only he could find a cure for the highly contagious modern malady Superfluous Like Syndrome which afflicts the younger (and some not so young) generation of today; introducing several unnecessary ‘like’s into every sentence they utter.*

Anyhoo, ahem, like an early postcode lottery there’s only room for one more patient at Sir Colenso’s TB clinic. Should he save his kind but poor medical chum (Derek Hutchinson) who devotes his life to helping others or Louis Dubedat (Tom Burke) the deeply unpleasant and money-grabbing but apparently talented (the drawings we could see from the front stalls didn’t look much cop to us) young artist who has a rather comely and charmingly elegant wife Jennifer (Genevieve O’Reilly). His decision is muddied by falling for the wife and believing that if the artist croaks she’ll marry him. Daddy or chips? Either way the chips are down for one of them.

Andrew – forgetting Phil did life drawing at college and was used to such things – covered Phil’s eyes in a scene where Louis sketches his wife’s baps (what on earth would GBS have thought?). Should Phil have covered Andrew’s peepers every time Louis padded around in his bare feet? Yes, the evening was full of dilemmas.

But thankfully one of the Whingers’ usual tricky dilemmas was removed. They didn’t entertain even the slightest notion of departing at half time. Never having seen the play before they both found it rather gripping and thoroughly entertaining. GBS knew a thing or two about constructing a play, cleverly unfolding quite a few plot turns just before the interval and with cunning foresight offering an early argument for the NHS.

The National’s signature lavishness is in evidence with four sets (Peter McKintosh), a large cast and more doctors on stage than a sci-fi convention. Occasionally director Nadia Fall’s treatment seemed slightly underpowered, but early preview caveats must be applied. It didn’t stop the Whingers wanting to know what was going to happen next and being frequently amused by Shaw’s wit and debates. The performances appeared to be in general good health, especially Malcolm Sinclair‘s splendid Sir Ralph Bloomfield Bonnington.

Now that the spectacularly positive reviews for Timon of Athens are out you may find it difficult to get an appointment in the playhouse next door. We had few complaints with TDD and prescribe seeing the doctor now.

Miriam Margolyes explaining to how to use the  word ‘like’ correctly. Required viewing if you’re, like, under 30.



2 Responses to “Review – The Doctor’s Dilemma, National Theatre”

  1. Braintree Says:

    Does O’Reilly get her boobs out in every other NT production she does? There was boobage in Emperor and Gailean but not in 13 (This is a sign I see too much at the NT)

  2. Ed The Taxi Says:

    I think Ms.O’Reilly only shows bappage when I’m in the front two rows. It’s guaranteed to get me a sharp elbow in the ribs from Mrs.Taxi, I then have to remind her that I nearly had my eye taken out by a Nazi officer’s ample appendage at Bent at the Trafalger a couple of years ago, and that it swings both ways(ooh err missus). However, a fine production, now where are my fagocites?

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