Adelaide Festival: The Doctor by Robert Icke and the Almedia Theatre
A 21st Century adaption of Arthur Schnitzler’s Professor Bernhardi, The Doctor directed by Robert Icke for the Almeida Theatrefollows strong-willed, tenacious Professor Ruth Wolff as she navigates her way through the repercussions of a quick professional judgement made within her workplace. Entirely centred around ethical and political arguments of current day societies, The Doctor successfully manages to raise debates of religion, gender, identity, race and abortion and also demonstrating the integrity, or lack of within the media.
As a young 14-year-old girl closes in on death following a botched abortion, Professor Wolff is visited by a priest sent by the girl’s parents to perform the last rites. The Priest is refused entry by Wolff due to the basis of no knowledge of the patient’s religious status and in the hopes for the young girl to die peacefully, spared from any anguish as a result of knowledge of imminent death. We then watch as Wolff navigates the backlash of her decision, as what begins as a small issue becomes a huge media controversy and divides Wolff’s institute.
Set to a live drums’ performance with simple yet effective lighting to emphasise on tense moments and key changes in mood, each element of the production and script layers perfectly to become a complex, multi-layered play that is breathtakingly similar to today’s day-to-day life for some.
The cast members of The Doctor admirably perform and takes on their characters with great accuracy and art. Each character is notably diverse with majorly different personalities and values, adding another important and engaging layer to this enormously intricate piece of work by Icke. Notable performances include that of Chris Colquhoun ad Dr Copley who offers some incredibly complex and stirring moments and that of lead actress Juliet Stevenson as Professor Ruth Wolff.
“Trust me I’m a doctor” (Professor Ruth Wolff, The Doctor), actress Juliet Stevenson gloriously captivates the entire audience with her authentically passionate performance as headstrong character Professor Ruth Wolff. Professor Wolff’s journey as a character is portrayed to perfection by Stevenson as we watch her emotionally deteriorate as her career: what is essentially her life and identity is stripped away from her.
The Doctor by Robert Icke and the Almeida Theatre is an outstanding and absorbing play that is full of tense, shocking, comedic and tender moments. It fills each audience member with a number of thought-provoking ideas to ponder on even once the curtains are drawn. And although in my eyes The Doctor ever so slightly overuses 21st Century issues of ethics and politics, it is also clear that director Icke has done this with a purpose. The Doctor begs the question has society become too easily and readily offended, and hypersensitive towards political and ethical issues? How do we deal with this when there are conflicts of interest within the workplace and should religious doctors treat religious patients?
Written by Hayley Sutter