Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Greg wounded

Not much luck for Greg Madden and it could get worse when he gets medical inattention . . . Pictures: Nick Browning /

Trust me, I’m a Doctor

Levi Fox Hall

King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon


Trust me, I’m a Doctor, Edward’s Boys latest wacky, oddball production, not a single play but a welding and blending of some dozen sources, is more a case of ‘beware me. So far from curing, I’ll obliterate your health, and subvert your constitution.’You may be in fine fettle, but rest assured when I’ve finished with you, you’ll be demolished and in a fine old mess.’

Wickedly pilfered by Director Perry Mills, fused into ten or so slyly conceived literary gems, and cobbled into a hotch-potch of outrageous comic pastiche, this melange and sophisticated patchwork - a farrago of acting for his eminently brainy actors– unveils a continuous cycle of ghastly rectoscopic, endoscopic, laryngoscopic obstetrics - mostly the opposite of benevolent panacea – enough to make any victim quail and quake. And there’s a lot of that served up here.

Does it provide a suitable stagework for these (here) scamps and scallywags who constitute Edward’s Boys and now at their most notorious and scandalous? You bet. The Doctor is all hopelessly funny, and they make it so. It enables them to flit and flutter, to twitch, stomp and shudder, to gallivant through a crazy dog’s breakfast of unceasing activity. And there’s depth. The parts are shared around: the talents of all are unveiled.

The sham medication, whether as purported clinician or miserable, appallingly mistreated target, is dispensed with equal glee by these shamelessly unfeeling twerps.The whole affair is an abominable outrage, and the Boys, as inevitably they do, grab their chance at playing nasty idiots and lap it up. The collage is a powerful vehicle for glorious showing off. And they go for it, as is their wont, with withering, pitiless, merciless aplomb. 

And even - perhaps particularly – amid such a weird concoction - how is it possible not to see these flamboyant, animated mummers – even when hamming it to bits as here - as anything other than true professionals? The Doctor it’s a naughty, deliberately rather disgusting assemblage; and as ever, they give it all they’ve got.

Will Groves prepares to go under the knife

So, what heinous, depraved specimens do this tightly culled jumble offer the Boys impudently to flaunt? These corrupt, poisonous personae yield them the joy - and us the incredulity - of witnessing them, one by one, each in his own deft manner, pose, tongue-in-cheek, as the worst kind of depraved, incorrigible humbug: ‘a promoter of fraudulent or ignorant medicism’; ‘an unpleasant sham who pretends to supposedly have skill, knowledge, qualification or credentials they do not possess’; a shameless charlatan (‘who cares whether we kill or cure?’), an obnoxious conman, a bogus trickster and mountebank only too pleased to milk their victim of whatever is in their all too vulnerable purse. A brazen thief, in fact, and an accomplished, masterly filcher.

What fun. Trust Me, I’m a Doctor is nicked from some dozen sources, the majority, maybe not surprisingly, stemming from (Jean-Baptiste) Molière (1622-23): not least his wicked parody Le Médecin malgré lui (The Doctor in Spite of Himself), which supplies the first gruesome, cantankerous – pretty obscene - item distilled from Molière paraded here. Another – of course - was The Hypocondriac (Le malade imaginaire), his last comédie-ballet, at which the playwright expired just a week after its premiere.

There are eleven sections paraded here; and they make for a big bevy of onstage cast – bustling round the supposed ’Malade’ - infatuated with doctors and apothecaries, yet equally sickening of these medics, who, he says, ‘know nothing about the workings of the human body and therefore can do nothing to cure it.’ He seems to have got the point.

Amid the miscellany, a mocking, jokey and impressively played accordion (rubber faced Felix Kerrison-Adams, a great stage performer as well), and matched by guitar and a particularly refined, high quality cello), rivalled some boisterous, feverish appearances by frantic personages (the daringly dissonant Jamie Mitchell not least: ‘Why not believe that one man can cure another?’ Neatly manoeuvred, t

here are two smartly and subtly injected silhouettes – a cheeky bit of witticism.

felix and accordian

 Felix Kerrison-Adams complete with accordion 

But that would be to ignore applauding the brilliantly directed forceps-wielding cast, virtually all of whom played some ebullient part in twisting and skewing their twitching prey: he being an unfortunate, rottenly abused scapegoat duped into ill-endured, throbbing anguish, agony and misery by one mean and rampant medic after another. Each phoney doctor emerged as a minor masterpiece; each of their fragile, doomed casualty an obliging but desperate target, a fall guy, poignantly (but comedically) writhing and squirming. A bloodied Will Groves got a particularly unpleasant pasting. So did many of the others.        

Why Molière, when Edward’s Boys are famed for their ever-inventive stagings of early English 17th century plays – serious, sinister, part-comic, occasionally hilarious? The answer is patent, the idea bold: 2022 is the 400th anniversary of the comic playwright’s birth; and Montpellier, a venue they have played at before, saw an opportunity, shared by the troupe’s Director Perry Mills, to present a witty satiric concoction of 12 plus literary parodies of the doctor as malfaisant.

L'Amour médecin – The Love Doctor, also by Molière – unleashes on the hapless doomed victim a clutch of know-it-all quacks, each of whom tenders a different remedy. Their fussing and pontificating, not surprisingly, generates a medley and muddle, as the Boys vie to administer their hopeless solutions. They cluster around like bees or wasps; which is virtually what they are.

The hilarious chaos generated by this melée proved typical of the whole show. Tongue-in-cheek, ironic, naughty, insistent, irresistible. And ravishingly comic. But one feature, both throughout and especially later on, was the extraordinary brilliance – among many brilliances – shared among  the cast’s speaking; not just in English, which as always was superbly and scrupulously polished, but also in great swathes of French.

jamie protest

Jamie Mitchell makes his protest watched by the cast

Vivid, lucid, adroit, frankly perfect. There was Latin too, perfectly competent. But hearing their French was like listening to music. It was beautiful. Thus passages of Molière emerged as if in the original. All the more apt, as the potpourri included here included five extracts – droll burlesques - from the 17th century farceur.  

The Doctor in spite of himself sees a recurrent Molière character, in each case named Sganarelle, manoeuvred into taking up doctoring himself. There is no escaping the pressures his rivals brought to bear – the hassle, coercion and harassing

Fourth of the Molières was Monsieur de Pourceaugnac (with musical score by Lully), a very early play far less familiar nowadays, one of whose titles is ‘The Sick who are Well”: on the face of it, money milked unnecessarily. Well, that sounds well up to the mark. Yet despite this variant title, doctoring is not to the fore. As with several of these plays, the plot or subplot involves not so much therapeutic as a girl who is edged into a marriage she rejects. ‘Don Juan’ – akin to Mozart’s opera – also forgoes the doctoring.

But the what one finds staggering about Edward’s Boys is – always - the discipline, drill and endless precision – and unified genius - of the teamwork. Every move seems ideally and meticulously mapped. Each one knows what he is doing, and delivers to perfection. Even amid the swishing and swooping, the pouncing and plunging, the daring and dazzling, twiddling moves get impeccably framed, and jaw-droppingly well designed.

Eloquent, emphatic, endlessly animated, suggestive, demonstrative, well thought-out, Whatever is going on upon stage, the moves, like the language, are a kind of music. Not just lively but expressive. And just as this frolic and romp demands, the satire shines through at every point. It’s daft, barmy, loopy. The whole thing is bonkers.

And of course the whole squad – for an inspiredly tightly knit team it is – brandishes this effortlessly. It’s both crazy and wild. And It adds up to a complete bonanza, a daft jamboree, a potty parade of nightmarish, obscene, repugnant self-publicizing. Not very nice at all.

doc or quack

White coats mean nothing . . . doctor or quack?

Is there a danger with this kind of conglomerate? Well, perhaps.The way the different sequences are fused one with another can be, is, confusing. Which doctor is which? What bit of putrid ill-treatment are we clocking on to at any time? But then, this whole thing is designed as a comic outrage. So - does it really matter?

Much of the time the cast, or alternate parts of it, goes absolutely bananas. Edward’s Boys have the gift of being able to launch one sequence after another of bluster and frenzy, and yet the whole bizarre process seems immaculately practised, meticulously plotted, cleverly manoeuvred, slickly carried off. Even when they embark on a kind of demented mass dance – there’s a good bit of that - it all fits together. A Mad World, my Masters, their fifth extract, hails from Thomas Middleton, one of their previous undertakings. But it all fits together. Everything has been inculcated, to form a kind of beautifully governed jigsaw. Everyone positively, and constantly outrageously, beamed and sparkled. Actors and players, young and old, display prettywell universal talent.  

Difficult to applaud any individual, when so many flourish in such a host of different unattributed parts. As we’ve highlighted, most of the speaking could scarcely be bettered. An Edward’s Boys speciality, the elocution was smashingly good. Essentially the whole cast have mastered this art. It would be easy to gabble. Not one of them did. Who needs a show where the best lines are squandered? Here there is an eagerness to communicate which lends itself to excellence. Each dire medical – or as often, pseudo-medical - assault on some hapless victim had its own unique lucidity, luminosity one might say. It all shines. This was not a play for sobriety, but one packed with translucent, effulgent cheek. And it all meshes together - perfectly. How do they get away with it, one asks?         

Not least absorbing, and intriguing, is the collection – one might say hoard, or job-lot – of sources Perry Mills has cobbled together to make this crazy potpourri. The Wisdom of Doctor Dodypoll, author uncertain, dates from 1600, just the sort of period many of the Boys’ usual plays are garnered from. Who on earth, apart from the most commanding specialist, has heard of that? The Gentleman Usher is filched from George Chapman, a comedy just a few years later from a versatile playwright who was master of both comedy and tragedy. Summer’s Last Will and Testament (a slice of Thomas Nashe) was one of their recent brilliant, unforgettable successes.

The Anatomist by Edward Ravenscroft (1654-1707, hence somewhat later) is actually subtitled The Sham Doctor: Clearly apt food for this intriguing, dazzling medley. Mikhail Bulgakov, at the close, is unexpectedly prised out of one of the great Soviet era writers: A total surprise, except that he penned The Life of Monsieur de Molière as a sneaky parody, right on the main subject, but latterly banned by the authorities. A clever find, just as the chunk of Plautus’s Menaechmi (a forerunner of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors) serves up a quack, an infernal nuisance and druggist who cluelessly declares the major figure to be mad: yet another case of Trust Me, I’m a Doctor – or for goodness’ sake, don’t. And – a late treat – Jed Trimnell makes as stylish a girl as he did in the company’s last play, Marston’s The Fawn, offset by a tall, slim blue-clad wench who offer us a virtual epilogue of excellence.

Perry Mills, in plotting this bizarre mishmash, observes ‘Initially, I was attracted to the idea of satiric comedy at the expense of the doctor as authority figure’. Perhaps inevitably, Molière is promoted as the bulk of this extraordinary sizzling text. Five gobbets, medics, hypochondriacs, neurotics, paranoids, maladjusteds. And no wonder the Boys seize the bull by the horns and offer us such a bewitching, magnificent disco of a frolicsome show. They gambol, frolic, prance, hokey-cokey in one endless shindig. Blame the Director.

Roderic Dunnett


Edward's Boys

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