‘The Doctor’ review – Juliet Stevenson is mesmerising in Robert Icke’s swansong

The Almeida’s outgoing associate director ends his tenure with an intelligent and incisive finale – ★★★★★

Robert Icke’s six-year stint has come to a thrilling and intense conclusion. Reuniting with long-term collaborator Juliet Stevenson (Hamlet, Mary Stuart), the writer and director’s last play at the Almeida is a blistering exploration of faith versus science and identity.

Stevenson is Professor Ruth Wolff, a doctor whose career is called into question when she refuses to let a Catholic priest see a dying patient. No stranger to adapting the classical (the script is “loosely” based upon Arthur Schnitzler’s novel Professor Bernhardi), Icke adds modern-day callout culture to this tale of prejudice and scrutiny.

A medical professional obsessed with the details (her pedantry around the use of ‘whom’ and ‘literally’ are particularly amusing), it’s how the doctor copes when the public hone in the specifics of her scandal which makes for fascinating theatre.

As a role which requires individuals to make instant decisions, Dr Wolff’s lack of action around the PR disaster – instead requesting to ‘return to the agenda’ in meetings ad nauseam – is intriguing. Her inability to be “crystal clear” has the potential to slow the play’s rapid and fiery debate, but with the aid of Hannah Ledwidge on drums, Stevenson is masterful with its pacing. At first calm and collected, the collapse of Wolff’s composure – with the occasional sharp retort – is as striking as it is devastating.

A gripping investigation about independent thought, bias and choice, it’s in your best interests to see this fiery and intense drama.

The Doctor is now playing at the Almeida Theatre until 28 September.

Production Images: Manuel Harlan.

Disclaimer: I was invited to watch The Doctor for free in exchange for a review of the performance as a member of the press. I did not receive payment for this review and all opinions stated are honest and my own.

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