The Life Doctor

BEN BLYTH gets off on technicality. The first review from a publication not thanked in the programme.

Adam Lawrence Footlights George Potts Joe Bannister life doctor Mairin O'Hagan Phil Wang Smoker Stewart Lee Varsity

ADC Theatre, 27-30th October, £4-6

Written & Directed by Adam Lawrence & Phil Wang


The Life Doctor has been billed as one of the highlights of the ADC this term, cresting a wave of post Armageddapocalypse II: The Explosioning nostalgia. Although undoubtedly the work of two very talented individuals, TLD is neither funny nor unique enough to justify the overblown opinion it has of itself, and actually pales in comparison to its more successful forebear.

The audience are taken through a pilot episode of a newly commissioned ‘Channel You’ lifestyle show. Sitting somewhere between Jeremy Kyle and a wizard, Adam Lawrence plays the show’s eponym as he sets out to change the lives of the three guests, Alan (Joe Bannister), Edward (George Potts) and Abi (Mairin O’Hagan). Cue a series of socially awkward situations, the conjugation of unconnected nouns, and all the irrelevant metaphors you would expect from a below-par Smoker.

It was here that the show was really crippled – the script was surprisingly weak and gaspingly under-edited, with a running time of over 90 minutes. Already stilted episodic character development was slowed almost to a standstill by extended ‘advert breaks’ for a wide range of ‘comedy’ products. Like Staircases. And Vaginal Yoghurt.

Now, I have no problem with comedy as a means of provocation. The Life Doctor fell far short, however; relying on stale one-liners and latent misogyny. Women were employed in the chorus to play secretaries, personal assistants and wholly unnecessary dancers who come on and do a sex. Which was nice. But I lose myself…  Another prime example is the snorting of powder-scripts skit, following the Twilight Saga came the revelation that the script for Lesbian Vampire Killers had been mistaken for actual cocaine, resulting in a brief James Corden based trip. It’s not just the way I tell it, you really did have to be there.

I’ll freely admit that a rather kind audience did seem to be enjoying it, and I occasionally felt ‘as out of place as a pig at a bar mitzvah’. Everyone at TLD (I love calling it TLD) however realised that the extended explanation of this joke did not work, and is symptomatic of the wider problems with the script in its current form. Bafflingly rubbish material was far too frequent and resulted in more than the occasional Lolkward pause. I just wish people would watch a little less Ricky Gervais and a little more Stewart Lee.

Why the two stars then if it was so disappointing, Ben, with your judgements so damning and frequent? Ben, from your high horse of completely unfounded artistic integrity, and your eyes so bulgingly nervy and weird?

Well, avid TABoiks and showskets alike, this production was an absolute triumph for the ADC technical staff as it looked stunning and ran flawlessly. Employing almost every trick in the theatrical book, Omi Chowdhury, Tony Dent, and Phil Yeeles have facilitated for quite a spectacle. From the floating hut to the interaction with frequent (often extended) multimedia, TLD has given the technical staff a chance to flex their biceps and they have not let the production down. The performers too were all excellent, with the cast really making the most of the lacklustre material. Joe Bannister’s turn as the aloof Alan was particularly enjoyable.

The evident focus on how the thing looked over what the thing said left me rather hollow. I’m saddened to say I stumbled out of the ADC at twenty-to-one wondering what on earth all the fuss had been about.