The  Life Doctor

The Life Doctor’s vital signs are all there: lights, music, movement and a very talented cast. And yet there seems to be a serious medical complication - a deep internal rupture in one of its major organs. Adam Lawrence plays an inept and unfeeling life coach in a spoof telly show, The Life Doctor, a man so insensitive and annoying that he makes things substantially worse for his charges. He’s like the Wizard of Oz dealing with the requests of Scarecrow, Lion and Tin Man, with all the charlatanism but none of the charisma. Lawrence creates an exquisite caricature, a strong healthy pulse – but why, then, does the patient look so unwell?The problem springs not from the talent of the performers. In fact there are some exceptional actors in the large supporting cast. The show’s flaw runs in its blood. It just isn’t good enough for an hour’s show. It’s a sketch – made with a sketch character who is entirely unsuitable and not well realised enough for a play of this length. The Life Doctor, as a character, is entirely unlikable. It’s hard to think of many successful comic creations of which this is true. The best, to my mind, have more to them – David Brent, Alan Partridge – these people are unlikable but at the same time have a history, a motivation, maybe even some vulnerability. That’s how they command whole shows and long narratives and keep an audience’s attention – they are three-dimensional. The Life Doctor is a cartoon, a back-of-the-paper comic strip copied, blown up, and pasted straight onto the stage. He’s a parody without a purpose.There are, before I get too critical, some good bits. Lawrence finds constantly more ingenious ways of entering the stage – they’re nice and surprising, so I won’t list them, but rest assured they are moments of genuine comic brilliance – visual gags that reveal, albeit briefly, why Lawrence and his writing partner Phil Wang have some Comedy Central and Chortle awards to their names. The transitions between flashback and ‘studio’ presentation are also well executed, creating a pleasing dramatic rhythm.Yet The Life Doctor has a serious medical problem: it has a hole where its heart should be. It is comedy made from brashness and cruelty, and even as it moves towards a sweet and endearing conclusion, it lacks the balls to stick with it, undermining it as soon as it can and extending the final gags long beyond their worth. I think the people involved will live through this, and find themselves revived into another show, another day – but for now they’d better get some rest, they aren’t looking too healthy.

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The Blurb

Winner of Comedy Central and Chortle Awards, Phil Wang and Adam Lawrence presents the greatest TV show never shown. Join the Life Doctor as he stumbles through the lives of three unfortunate participants. ‘Skilful and hilarious’ (Varsity).

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