A Fortunate Man - New Perspectives 3*** - One4Review
one4review | On 07, Aug 2018
This play has come to Summerhall as we celebrate 70 years of the NHS. Using the book ‘A Fortunate Man: The Story of A Country Doctor’ by John Berger and Jean Mohr as a starting point, New Prespectives have built a multi media piece of theatre around the life of Dr John Sassall, using excerpts of his book to dramatize his life as a doctor but also looking at his life after the publication of the book which ended abruptly with his suicide following the death of his wife (this is not a spoiler – we hear of his death at the start of the play.)
Situating the play in the clinical atmosphere of the Demonstration Room seemed appropriate as we were given dramatized snippets of the doctor’s life as detailed in the book by the actors Matthew Brown and Hayley Doherty, each taking their turn to demonstrate Dr Sassall’s dedication to his patients and his work. The format of the bulk of the play as a lecture was less successful though as slides of Jean Mohr’s photographs in the book and some short films were projected onto a wall covered in pipes which lessened their impact. Dr Sassall’s story was heart wrenching and the piece did show that there the seeds of his mental anguish were apparent when the book was written. The play is also successful in displaying that although his wife is barely mentioned in the book, she was a tremendous support to Dr Sassall in the workplace, at home and with his mental health issues.
The play ultimately seeks to show the relevance of Dr Sassall’s life for GPs today but I felt that this was less successfully demonstrated as this message was portrayed in part by the actors voicing interviews with current day doctors at the same time, speaking over each other, which made it impossible to understand what the garbled messages were.
I think if they had more time to develop the links to present day the message of the play would be clearer but it was well acted by both actors and a great advert for John Berger’s and Jean Mohr’s book. I have already ordered a copy!
Reviewed by Rona
Summerhall – Demonstration Room
Until the 26th August (not 13th or 20th)