The Doctor’s Dilemma at London National Theatre

I’ve got a privilege to be invited to this fabulous play at National Theatre, Southbank, London. It is titled The Doctor’s Dilemma, first staged in 1906, written by Bernard Shaw.

The Doctor's Dilemma

In this play, our main character Sir Colenso is a doctor who has found experimental treatment of tubercolosis and his resources are restricted to ten selected patients. Come into the scene a beautiful young woman Jennifer Dubedat who begs him to help her husband, a brilliant artist who we (and the doctors) find later on to be a man with questionable morality. Added to the dilemma the fact that Sir Colenso is somewhat in love with Jennifer. There’s now a chance for him to play god and let the husband dies. Shall he, shall he not? The doctor’s dilemma!

The 2 hours and 40 minutes play was divided into just 5 long scenes. Lots of dialogues between the several doctors who each has his own opinion on how to run his medical service and profession. Then lots of dialogues between the doctors and the Dubedat man about morality. Clearly Bernard Shaw had lots of messages to say.

Doctor's Dilemma stage

The setting of the stage itself was wonderful. It could possibly be the best stage set I have ever seen so far for plays! It was large and detailed. The lighting was so amazing, such that you could see the sun rays coming into the windows, during daylight, sunset, and night time on stage, as if it was real. The actors and actresses were great and captivating, especially for the three main actors: Dr Colenso (Aden Gillett), Jennifer (Genevieve O’Reilly) and Louis Dubedat (Tom Burke). My companion of the night was totally smitten by Jennifer – beautiful, vulnerable, and strong at the same time.

So who’s this Bernard Shaw?

George Bernard Shaw 1936

Only after the play I learned that Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright (1856-1950), writing more than 60 plays, most addressing social issues, like education, marriage, religion, health care, government, and class privilege (several are quite prominent in The Doctor’s Dilemma!).

He is the only person to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize in Literature (1925) and an Oscar (1938), for his contributions to literature and for his work on the film Pygmalion (adaptation of his play of the same name), respectively. Pygmalion is later adapted to the musical My Fair Lady, which later is adapted to the film of the same name, starring Audrey Hepburn! (which received multiple Oscars)

Not only did I get to see the fabulous play, I also got to learn about Bernard Shaw – who I did not know before, admittedly. Thank you the crew and PR for inviting me!

The Doctor’s Dilemma is playing at National Theatre 17 July – 12 September 2012.


The Booker, Faber Night, and Michael Frayn

As the 2012 Man Booker Prize longlist was announced a couple of days ago, I was mostly surprised to see Skios by Michael Frayn! Not because I have opinions about the book (since I haven’t read it), but I have actually got a chance to talk to the man himself a few months ago!

This brought me back to the invitation for Fiction night at Faber and Faber in Bloomsbury in April (yes, long overdue). The first of its kind for Faber from what I gathered. I arrived into the room full of people talking, with drinks and fingerfood, glass display on the sides of the first few very successful books published by Faber in the old days – from which I remember most is William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. I also met Jackie and Kim there.

We then got ushered into the next room where the readings would be. The speakers were Michael Frayn, Sarah Hall, Edna O’Brien, Chibundu Onuzu, Alex Preston, and Robert Williams. Each of them got to read snippet from their new book. I hadn’t heard of the others to be honest, apart from Sarah Hall. I heard good things about her Booker nominated How to Paint a Dead Man so it was pretty cool to see her in person.

sarah hall
Sarah Hall reading from her new book

We got free books to bring home (as you do :). They’re hardbacks of The Dream of the Celt by Mario Vargas Llosa (that Nobel prize dude), Skios by Michael Frayn, and Jubilee Lines by Carol Ann Duffy.

faber books
Faber books

I didn’t spend much time there after the readings, feeling tired and a bit out of place (most people seem to be from the publisher houses), so I headed off. And guess who I met downstairs as I left the building?

Michael Frayn!

I wasn’t sure if Skios was my kind of book, but it has a very lovely cover of Greek island that I wish to go to someday. And his reading was pretty good and funny. I haven’t got lots of chances to talk with book authors directly too, so I promptly asked him to sign the book I just got from Faber. What a great coincidence!

We both were heading to Holborn station and taking Piccadilly line, so we got to talk a bit more. I asked for his favorite books. He mentioned David Copperfield by Dickens, a British historical fiction book series (which I can’t recall right now! Why didn’t I write things down?!), and  a French author – whose name I didn’t know, and I could literally see that I lost a few points in his mind by not recognizing this author. To be fair, I probably do, just did not get the pronunciation right! I find French words are terribly hard to pronounce!

He asked me what I do (in other words, why I was there) and I said I’m a blogger. (Still find it really weird to tell people that I’m a blogger…) He was intrigued and asked me what kind of books I review and so on. (Then I felt a bit bad that I hadn’t read or reviewed many contemporary books recently…) He flipped through the evening newspaper saying that he’s looking for a play that he wrote that was supposed to come out that day (but couldn’t find it). Only later I found out that he has actually written tons of stuff! From fiction to non fiction to plays and translations and tv stuff. Wow, I’m impressed!

The evening ended as he got off the tube, telling me “good luck with the blog!”

A nice man. Happy to see his book longlisted for the Booker prize. And for me there’s a little personal connection there that makes the announcement a bit more special :)

I have just got back from super busy 30 days of traveling around Europe and in Britain with my mom and two aunties, plus 3 more days with a friend to South France. Invited to two plays to review once I got back, staying back late at a friend’s house for Olympic opening ceremony. Got sick, continue working, and stay a bit sick until now due to tiredness. So many things to do yikes! But expect a few more posts from me in the next week or so! (two on the plays in London)

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