The Good Doctor

Rachel King
5th Dec 2015

In 30 years as Artistic Director at Ensemble Theatre, Sandra Bates has never taken to the stage and spoken to the audience before a performance, but as she directs her final production for the company, perhaps it was fitting that she found herself in the spotlight on opening night. Unfortunately her speech was to announce that one of the actors, Glenn Hazeldine, had been the victim of an untimely accident and would be replaced by Adriano Cappelletta – who had only stepped into the role on Thursday. Now an incident such as this is sure to rattle even the most consummate professional, but if the audience hadn’t been given prior warning, there were very little tell-tale signs of the recent chaos in the show.

Neil Simon’s The Good Doctor is a collection of short stories inspired by Chekhov that are held together by Cappelletta’s writer narrator. The vignettes cover a range of topics and vary from the outrageously comic to some more dramatic moments. The five members of the ensemble cast take on multiple roles in the numerous scenes and it is through these changes in character that they each have a moment to shine.

David Lynch is wonderfully pompous as the General in The Sneeze. Kate Raison’s "Woman" in A Defenceless Creature is hilariously over the top. Adriano Cappelletta may be new to his role but has taken to it with zealousness and while his performance wasn’t without some minor flaws, he was largely endearing and charming especially in The Seduction. Unfortunately youth and inexperience overshadowed Chloe Bayliss’ performance. She has some good comedic timing, most notably in The Arrangement, but her breathing and voice characterisation was inconsistent. The biggest surprise of the night was theatre novice Nathan Wilson, who in his first production at Ensemble absolutely stole the show. His exuberance was palpable but he showed great skill in moving between slapstick and more poignant drama. Every scene he was involved in was a joy to watch.

It is Neil Simon’s script and the decision to keep the characters as 19th century Russians that is the most difficult to comprehend. The scenes and interactions between the characters are timeless and could largely be transferable to modern settings, so it a distraction to be confronted by some fairly stereotypical Russian names and behaviours. Of course by remaining faithful to the period, it allowed Margaret Gill to create some truly beautiful costumes.

The Good Doctor is a good laugh and easily digestible theatre, so it seems Sandra Bates is ending her tenure on a high note.

The Good Doctor is on at Ensemble Theatre, Kirribilli until January 17, 2016. Production photos by Clare Hawley. 

From the 19th of January, The Good Doctor will move to Glen Street Theatre, Belrose for a brief run until January 24. Adriano Cappelleta has permanently taken over Glenn Hazeldine's role due to injury.