The Doctor's Dilemma


George Bernard Shaw's 1906 tragedy considers the morality of doctors.

A friend of mine moved to Hollywood and lived in a house with a group of professional pickup artists. Their business consisted of teaching hapless young men the secrets of seducing women. The men paid a healthy fee to learn the basic technique, which is premised on the belief that the type of man a woman finds most desirable is the unrepentant jerk. In order to extend this "insight" into a bar-ready strategy, the pickup artists have developed an arsenal of techniques and a lexicon that is almost as impenetrable as that of the medical profession.

In The Doctor's Dilemma, Sir Colenso Ridgeon (Aden Gillett) reaches much the same conclusion about women as the pickup artists when he falls for Mrs. Jenifer Dubedat (Genevieve O'Reilly). She pleads with Colenso to save her husband who is dying of consumption. Colenso agrees, but later discovers that yes, Mr. Dubedat (Tom Burke) is indeed an unrepentant jerk.

One quickly realizes that Colenso is just as much of a jerk as the man he decries. In fact, he is worse. Just as the techniques of the Hollywood pickup artist allows him to behave like a jerk while maintaining a belief that underneath he is really a "nice guy", Colenso's medical knowledge allows him to believe that he inhabits a different moral plane from Dubedat, even as he decries his friends and colleagues for quackery. Both the pickup artist and Colenso's appalling behavior is accompanied by a strong sense of self-righteousnesses. No wonder then that women prefer the unrepentant jerks.

The Doctor's Dilemma is on at the National Theatre until the 12th of September.

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