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Home arrow Archive: EdFringe 2013 arrow I Need a Doctor: The Unauthorised Whosical Adventure
I Need a Doctor: The Unauthorised Whosical Adventure
Published on Wednesday, 07 August 2013

4 stars

Pleasance Courtyard (venue website)
31 Jul, 1-13, 15-19, 21-26 Aug, 2:30pm-3:30pm
Reviewed by Ellen Macpherson

 Parents or guardians should consider the content of this show if children are attending.

When I arrived at the Pleasance Courtyard fully fifteen minutes before I Need A Doctor was scheduled to start, I found myself already at the end of a mammoth queue. Regrettably on my own, I joined the line of fans – mostly between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five – harmoniously engaged in a group singalong of the Doctor Who theme song. In hindsight, the cheery throng outside was much better at ooo-eeeee-ooo-ing than the two people actually performing the show. Considering that the show is an intentional parody of its own lack of funding, however, I guess I shouldn’t hold that against them.

This is less a musical about Doctor Who, and more one about performers Jess and Jamie themselves – or their on-stage personae, at least. Be careful if you’re expecting a faithful adaptation. Instead, I Need A Doctor relects Jess and Jamie's chaotic attempt to stage a rewritten musical that they haven't practised, after having received a sharp letter of warning from Steven Moffat. The result is a pleasant surprise: not only a great tribute to Doctor Who, but an excellent insight into the workings of musical theatre, and a lovely message about the danger of letting go of real life in favour of a fan obsession.

There's some very clever writing in this musical. James Wilson-Taylor and Jessica Spray show a great understanding of parody, and a keen awareness of what's likely to please their audience. The show provides an impressive number of laugh-out-loud moments – more than enough to compensate for the couple of jokes that fell a bit flat. The Les Mis homage is worth a particular mention, as are the incredibly accurate imitations of David Tennant, Billie Piper, Matt Smith and John Barrowman. The vocal performances were surprisingly impressive too; when the notes weren't the object of a comedic ploy, they were flawlessly delivered.

But, as good-natured and warm as this show is, at times it can be a little insular and self-indulgent. It features a number of inside jokes from fan culture (particularly internet fan culture, as I know because, hey, I'm a nerd too). If you understand them it's great, but it's also a little uncomfortable as an audience member when half of the crowd is consumed by raucous laughter and the other half is chuckling uncertainly. Another small criticism regards the final section, when Jamie and Jess come into conflict: I would have liked to see more dedication to their own characters, but instead they very quickly switch back to the Doctor and his companion. I understand that it's a tribute piece, but Jamie and Jess are so endearing that I wanted a bit more resolution for them.

In summary, if you're the type of fan who has a theme song as your ringtone, you'll love I Need A Doctor. (Just be careful if you've got kids. There's a line about a sonic screwdriver that might need explaining!) If you’re more a casual watcher of the TV show, it might not be quite as spectacular for you. But judging by the length of that loudly-singing line, Stormy Teacup Theatre needn't worry. The show will sell extraordinarily well – because if there's anything Britain loves as much as their time-travelling Doctor, it's a good old parody of the BBC.

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