Thursday, 01 November 2012

The Good Doctor (Nov 2012)


This was Neil Simon’s comedic interpretation of the short stories of Anton Chekov “The Good Doctor”, directed by Neil Fordham. It was performed at the Plough Theatre 21-23 November 2012.

Cast List

  • The Writer – Colin MacKay
  • The Sneeze 
  • Cherdyakov – Ron Lester
  • Mrs Cherdyakov – Joyce Ridgwell
  • General Brassilhov – Richard Pitt
  • Mrs Brassilhov – Di Sluggett
  • The Governess
  • Mistress – Di Sluggett
  • Julia – Hilary Taylor
  • Surgery
  • Sexton – David Rowe
  • Kuryatin – Frazer Moore
  • The Seduction
  • Peter Semyonych – Richard Pitt
  • Husband – Neil Fordham
  • Wife – Sara Pruce
  • The Drowned Man
  • Sailor – David Rowe
  • Policeman – Frazer Moore
  • The Audition
  • Girl – Sara Pruce
  • The Defenseless Creature
  • Pochatkin – Frazer Moore
  • Mr Kistunov – Ron Lester
  • Woman – Linda Rawle
  • The Arrangement
  • Father – Richard Pitt
  • Son – Neil Fordham
  • Girl – Hilary Taylor


NODA Review

Neil Simon’s ‘The Good Doctor’ is essentially a series of unconnected stories, spun for us by their creator – ‘The Writer’. He engages with us as audience members throughout the performance, acting as a guide and sometimes appearing as characters and bystanders.

I loved the way he was woven into the stories in these different ways and his genial portrayal left you feeling like you’d been invited round for a coffee and a chat with an old friend. He successfully managed keep us engaged while surrounding himself with characters from his imagination and taught us a few moral lessons along the way!

As for the different stories he presented us, I was most taken by the story of an auditionee from out of town,desperate to be heard by a dismissive director (played from the back of the auditorium, by ‘The Writer’ himself, to great effect). The story was staged and played excellently, using various spots to slice out pools of light in the darkness, in which the auditionee performed – and what a fantastic job she did, selling her talent not only to the hidden Director, but also to us, her audience. The same actress also had great comic timing as the Wife in ‘The Seducer’.

With a few exceptions (including the terrifyingly enthusiastic ‘not-quite-a-doctor-yet’ Kuryatin and the whining ‘Son’ who confounded his Father’s attempt to buy him his manhood) I felt that some of the characters were a little underplayed and that it left some of the stories wanting for the embellishment of a sound effect or lighting plot.

Indeed I felt the lighting was rather underwhelming in a venue with the facility to be far more creative, however there were some lighting cues that worked harder – such as the use of down-lights and the ‘splitstage’effect for the manipulative ‘Seducer’.  Sound design was a little sparse and some judiciously chosen ambient sound would have helped bring some ambiance to the stories. There were some sound effects, although there was a little continuity error when daytime birds chipped merrily in a scene set at night.

Another nice touch was the use of all the elements in the Writer’s study for each story. A hastily re-arranged chaise became seats at the theatre, while his desk became the edge of a pier from which the ‘Drowned Man’ launched himself. Again, I liked the way The Writer setup elements of the scenery for his story before it began.

Special note has to go to the very last minute understudy, who took the role of ‘Woman’ in ‘The Defenceless Creature’. Thrown in at the last minute, with book in hand, she managed to pull off the character well. Well enough, in fact, that I wanted to slap her for being so annoying!

Some nice directorial touches (like the slow-motion sneeze by the paranoid Cherdyakov and the tooth extraction – failed! – from the agonised Sexton) showed promise and I look forward to seeing this new director grow with future directorial projects with Torrington Players!

Thursday, 01 November 2012