The Life Doctor

Thu 4th – Sun 28th August 2011

reviews

Natalya Din-Kariuki

at 11:50 on 13th Aug 2011

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The fact that I immediately found the Life Doctor (who has "a PhD in you and me") irritating did not bode well for the rest of the hour-long show. The show, written and directed by Adam Lawrence and Phil Wang, is set up as a television program. The "Life Doctor" (Adam Lawrence) attempts to aid three people unhappy with their lives - Alan (Joe Bannister), Ed (George Potts) and Abi (Celine Lowenthal) - through a series of interviews, makeovers and exercises. In visual terms, the production is superb: the action on stage is well complemented by a selection of pre-filmed material projected onto a screen upstage, and an array of props moves the Life Doctor's failed endeavors through space and time in exploring the individuals' lives. Additionally, the structure of the show is innovative, imitating and parodying TV shows closely enough to include advertisement breaks and a theme tune. The actors' use of mime is frequently comically effective - one minute they are clubbing, next on a bus. 

However, it all goes downhill from here. The script repeatedly inclines to cheap humour, including toilet jokes and casual misogyny. It oscillates between very stupid and too painstakingly intelligent without managing to strike a happy medium. The script is too self-aware to be genuinely funny, and Lawrence is too jerky and awkward to tolerate for very long. A few disgruntled audience members sloped out of the Underbelly about halfway through the show. 

There are moments of brilliance - Tom Pye's cameo as a brash New York film producer and Lawrence's tendency to unexpectedly appear in the middle of a scene, including one appearance made by hiding in a suitcase. This group has the potential to do fantastic work - their writing is quick and witty, the multimedia concept creative,and each cast member in possession of evident talent - if only they used their skills for content that was subtler and less adolescent. 

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Fen Greatley

at 12:41 on 13th Aug 2011

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This was absolutely dreadful. Honestly, it was truly dire. People left half-way through.

When your entire premise is to present a goofy spoof of the kind of show everyone hates anyway, you know you're onto a winner... right? Ahem. Apparently this show has won a string of awards, as has the main perpetrator thereof: I was thoroughly confused when I discovered this.

The Life Doctor bounds on stage after a lengthy set of opening credits that lasts about three times as long as it should. He's here to perform miracles, helping people out in various problematic situations, yadda yadda yadda etc. For one, it's an entirely unoriginal concept, perfectly in line with the entirety of the content and the comedy.

We gather that the Life Doctor is supposed to deliver deliberately unfunny jokes and cringeworthy one-liners (at least I hope), but this is within a context of surrounding attempts at genuine comedy, often with props or flourishes. Be they intentionally funny or not, much of the material is crass and mildly offensive. I have never been in such a disgusted audience. Nobody laughed at anything and I could feel people squirming around me.

In trying to imitate the annoying interruptive nature of the hosts of these kinds of shows, he just became an annoying interruption, a troll.

“I needed help” admits the Life Doctor after ruining Participant One's life. So did we to get throug his show. For no apparent reason, after a couple of eye-rollingly received blagverts (faked adverts), the Doctor is joined by two girls and performs a short dance – it wasn't bad, but why?

The staggering irony of the second participant's plaintive “You can't just copy a comedian's joke!” ws almost too much for me. The third participant is mostly unmemorable, but the awful romantic 'plot twist' comes in an assertion of this piece's decidely amateur and poorly written status. It smacks of last year's offensive offering from Cambridge, which contained half the cast of this. Once again, they have entirely misgauged the tone of their performance.

My favourite bit was probably the music in between scenes. Although the end – that was good, too.

It's a shame, really, because the film-making is actually really quite good and the first and third participants weren't bad actors. The execution of the show shows evidence of great practice.

“Was Scotland ready for what I have to say” asks the Life Doctor. No. Not even after your incorporation of one video with deliberately shocking, awful acting into the show to make yourselves look better than yourselves by comparison, it doesn't change anything. Nor after your final film-within-a-film scene with TV executives encouraging us to receive the show warmly.

To top it all off, people who liked the show were called idiots – I guess anyone who paid the high ticket price for this show probably did leave feeling like a sucker.

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