Under the Doctor

Tuesday, 27 February, 2001
Review by: 
Darren Dalglish

Lies lies and more lies. This farce is based purely on the lie and the extremes one will go to keep ones deception from being found out. Unfortunately, there are too many lies for my liking in this average comedy by Peter Tilbury, who is mostly known for his writings for TV, like “Shelly” from the 70s, and “Birds of a Feather”.

The plot is a familiar one. Many of the characters are having affairs, or are seeking one, and are prepared to do almost anything to keep their secrets under wraps. As a result, the resourceful man-servant, ‘Etienne’ makes a lot of money by taking advantage of the situation the deceitful characters find themselves in. It is indeed, the ‘Etienne’ angle that gives this farce its gentle humour as the lies that the characters tell would become somewhat tedious without him. However, the show is saved by its shortness! Lasting just over an hour-and a-half with an interval, the play is just short enough to stop it from labouring. A longer play could not be sustained from this weak script .

Farce is very dependent upon the actors for it to work and I’m pleased to say that this company perform with impeccable timing. Peter Davison, produces a solid performance as ‘Dr Moulineaux’. Davison for me is an actor who improves with age. I have always found him a competent actor but recently, with his performances on TV and on stage, he is becoming a great actor. I am a huge fan of facial expressions and Davison produces some classic ones in this farce. In fact, these expressions alone make me laugh! Anton Rodgers as ‘Etienne’, produces an adequate performance and he makes the character work.

The play has received poor reviews from most of the popular press…..PATRICK MARMION for THE EVENING STANDARD says, “It is hard to imagine what can have induced a fine comic actor like {Anton]Rodgers to appear in such a poorly play.” PAUL TAYLOR for THE INDEPENDENT says, “The material lacks the momentum and remorseless logic that would allow Fiona Laird's production to take off into delirium. A farce that doesn't make you helpless with laughter is one in need of help.” MADDY COSTA for THE GUARDIAN says, “This is precisely the sort of excruciating dud that gives farce a bad name.” She goes on to say, “ This is one play that should be quickly put out of its misery.” JONATHAN GIBBS for TIME OUT says, “There are the requisite number of secret and imagined couplings, feigned illnesses and mistaken identities, but the laughs are less forthcoming.” However, not all critics hated the show, CHARLES SPENCER for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH liked it saying, “I've always had a soft spot for dodgy jokes and gratuitous sex, and these baser instincts are enjoyably satisfied by Peter Tilbury's play.”

“Under the Doctor” is not a great comedy and I don’t expect the show to last too long in the West End. Nevertheless, it does have its moments and will not disappoint, provided your expectations are not to high.


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