The Doctor's Dilemma
Lyttleton Theatre, London
Saturday 18th August 2012
Shaw's 1906 exploration of the attitude and power of the medical profession is as pertinent today as it would have been on it's debut. Then, the concept of a National Health Service, where Doctor's were paid by the state no matter who they treat, was a new and revolutionary one. However, the dilemma that is now commonly known as a "postcode lottery", where certain treatments remain so costly that while some can have them others cannot, is likely to always remain a moral dilemma - who should get to decide which patient can live and which should die?
The plot is thought-provoking; should the newly knighted Sir Colenso Ridgeon's (Aden Gillett) revolutionary cure for consumption be used to save a supremely gifted but unlikeable artist, or an unremarkable but good-hearted doctor friend. A decision made more complex by the intervention of the artist's loving wife Jennifer Dubedat (Genevieve O'Reilly), with whom Sir Colenso has fallen in love.
Nadia Fall's direction of this new production brings out all of the humour in the handful of eccentric medics, each with their different pet treatment or technique. Worringly powerful men, with varying levels of respect for the medical treatments they prescribe, but always an unyeilding belief that they are doing the right thing. Particularly witty performances from Robert Portal as surgeon Walpole, and Malcolm Sinclair as Sir Ralph Bloomfield Bonington lighten the piece away from a dark morality play into a satirical black comedy.
Plenty of drama amongst the laughs too however, with an earnest performance from Genevieve O'Reilly as the loyal wife who fights so hard for her husband's cure. Less easy to warm to is the sincere Sir Colenso - the doctor with the moral decision on his hands, he retains a clinically cool professionalism for a man whose decisions are later so easily swayed by his emotions.
A mixed production that seemed to win the audience over with dark satirical comedy rather than moral philosophy, but some fine performances and a grand set made for a lavish evening's entertainment.