"A cast of mostly older men acting brilliantly" I totally agree. And mercifully a production that does not patronise its audience with concepts and updatings! The play has its problems, but this elegant, funny and thought-provoking production gave me enormous pleasure. - Philip Swan
26 Aug 12
Nadia Fall's revival of Shaw's 1906 medical drama is faithful to the period with no misguided attempts to make it more modern or over-emphasise the relevance for today's audience. It's also, for Shaw, surprisingly funny, particularly the discussions between the distinguished doctors whose methods barely rise above quackery. Malcolm Sinclair is especially good as the most pompous of this self-important bunch. Even though it is of its period there are clear parallels with the dilemma of whether to offer a rationed innoculation to an impoverished GP or a talented artist (with a desirable wife). However if I have reservations which make the 4-stars slightly generous it's because Shaw unnecessarily complicates that dilemma. The artist is such a scoundrel that it defies belief that such establishment doctors would be in such thrall to him and unfortunately Genevieve O'Reilly's performance is too dispassionate to provide sufficient justification despite her now obligatory topless scene which seems to be part of her contract with the National. This is an impressive National debut for a young director but she cannot completely solve the problems presented by this ultimately frustrating play - David Baxter
09 Aug 12
I must admit I am somewhat at a loss to see why the National papers have been so enthusiastic about this play. Accepting this is George Bernard Shaw at his most verbose I found this rather pedestrian production. My criticsm was with the direction. I felt that people were left just hanging around on the shallow stage thirty feet apart throwing lines to each other but with very little interaction. Unfortunately I found myself not bothered about the characters and ultimately the play. I found the whole thing rather a waste of time. The sets were interesting and the scene changes very watchable but we expect that of the National these days. The show for me was poor! Sorry. - Stuart
05 Aug 12
What a disappointment. Set good but spoilt by over acting by men in the cast apart from Aden Gillett. Do people stand around like this when talking. - david m
03 Aug 12
a boring production. No spark .long thin sets which require the actors to stand in straight lines. - Graham Brown
26 Jul 12
Differing reactions to Doctor's Dilemma. I heard one man remark to his female compainion, "Very dated, very boring!" but she said "Oh really, I thought it was excellent!" I'm with her and Reich. :)
Yes, Danny Boyle was not on hand to update the immediacy of the story by having gelatinous cocoons, 8 minutes of wordlessness and trains thundering towards the audience. He's too busy modernising the Olympic opening ceremony. But that wouldn't be right for Shaw anyway. He's all about words.
I would agree that attempting to save a woman from her "scoundrel" of a husband may indeed feel like a dated concept, but this play is much more than that. It's about how figures of authority and influence have carte blanche to make or break other people's lives, with little to no accountability. Doctors today play God every day when they determine who does and doesn't get the rationed resources of the NHS, and the portrait of doctors in this play is approached with mischievous humour. Apart from the soulful David Calder, as the moral conscience of the piece, and Aden Gillett, as the protagonist Doctor with important decisions to make, the other doctors all seem Pythonesque, a ministry of silly quacks, if you will.
For me, the humour works. Also, the moral decisions about how to weigh one life against another and the extent to which personal prejudices can influence the outcome are interesting.
But more than anything, this is a cast of mostly older men acting brilliantly. Aden Gillett unthreads the convoluted wordiness with ease, making the plot threads ever easy to follow, and the cerebral action involving. As the only man with a clear head advising Gillett's Sir Colenso Ridgeon in his difficult decisions, and guiding his conscience, David Calder is excellent. And so too is Malcolm Sinclair, as a quack doctor who doesn't know he's a quack, who makes the play's funniest speech. - steveatplays
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