MEDICO – Hope Theatre – Review
by Hugh Maguire
Dates: 1 – 5 Feb
Through sheer force of personality and a strong stage presence, real-life doctor Stefania Licari (aka Dr Anna LaRosa) turns a comparatively slight piece of theatre into something much more diverting than it might otherwise be. A short solo piece, we follow the flowing of ideas through Dr La Rosa’s somewhat distracted mind as she juggles early middle age concerns, her unmarried state, settling in post-Brexit UK (specifically London), an enormous variety of partners, a penis obsession, her younger sister getting married (before her), as well as the pressures of a busy A&E unit. There are jokes about catheters and urine samples, and a lot of jokes about penis size as she claims to be able to determine size just from looking at people, ‘being a doctor’ after all. This lends itself to some ribald humour and male audience engagement – great laughs for a lads night out. And one supposes that Dr LaRosa is enabled to read the audience just to know how much mileage she can get from this running gag. Although humorous in intent and purpose there are some serious undertones -all dealt with comically. We see the pressure on hospital staff, the difficulties of finding love in a busy city like London and combining long hours and work pressures, as well as family expectations on the home front. Although the implications of Brexit are alluded to, Licari chooses to play it safe – who knows the audience make up and everyone is just so sensitive these days!
What was most enjoyable for this reviewer was the almost mime-like moments when a combination of histrionic gestures and dramatic eyebrow-raising allowed the doctor to fall, perhaps unwittingly, into an ancient theatre tradition – a specifically Italian one of commedia dell’arte. We can think of Buster Keaton or the Keystone Cops in the early days of cinema, similarly part of that tradition. The London home of that tradition, or at least the clown-like version with Joseph Grimaldi, was not so far away at Sadlers Wells so there was an unintended resonance in the Islington venue. Significantly Licari has trained in physical theatre at the Grotowski Institute and it could be interesting to push that element more and to see how much a modern audience could handle. Ours is largely a visual culture and many of the gags and, dare one say, the penis size jokes could also be treated as mime to good effect.
Cast – Stefania Licari – Dr Anna LaRosa
Writer – Chris Head and Stefania Licari
Director – Chris Head
Producer – TeatroLatino