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[Performance Analysis:] DR DOLITTLE KILLS A MAN, London Hospital Tavern, London.

Chaos and absurdity are the very best friends of this performance, which remains throughout, in its content and style, unpredictable, ludicrous and energised. The comedy in this text, written by Aidan Pittman and Hudson Hughes and also directed by Hughes, is particularly strong, with a consistent library of subversions, hyperboles, and abrupt dark quips, and is permitted to flourish well with good timing and a wonderfully exaggerative characterisation by Pittman (also playing Dr Dolittle).

Pittman has excellent vitality and has created a most unique and discernable identity for his character. Positioning of the mouth and sudden yet precise gesticulations, side glances to the audience upon innuendo and in-joke…the caricature with which Pittman presents us is exceptional in its conception and consistency. Conversely, I must admit that after halfway into the performance, the Doctor’s peculiar and lovable idiolect and his sharp, articulated and rather robotic movements had disappeared, and I understand this is due, in part, to a faltering in plot/narrative and in performance style, whereby there is an inherent difficultly in marrying the performance content with the Doctor’s character.

The text is divisible into three main parts: the video depictions; the story of the ‘huge fucking ruby’; and the main premise that contextualises it all, which I will refer to as the ‘talk show’, wherein Dr Dolittle presents himself, his recent successes, and his new book. It is these two latter parts that allow for the greatest disconnect in content, namely in their chosen modes of presentation: the story of the huge fucking ruby is, overall, self-contained, owing to dialogues between him and secondary characters and to first-person self-references and descriptions of the events he had experienced. The talk show, however, sees a direct audience address wherein specific audience members, as opposed to the general audience as a whole, are targeted and approached. The story, and the video projections themselves, remain generally descriptive and mimetic, consciously ignoring the presence of the audience, barring a few passive invitations for audience participation [upon which I shall elaborate later]; the talk show, on the other hand: metatheatrical, confrontational, self-referential.

Whilst references to murder/death and Eddie Murphy’s film portrayals of the Doctor are frequent throughout, Eddie’s ultimate murder at the end of the play feels the most incongruous of all the material. There ought still to be structure to this chaos, which is admittedly present in the artificial existence of a story with chapters, a throughline, motifs, etc. but, despite a strong beginning with clarity, purpose and direction, nonexistent in the talk show sections. That all should be resting upon this final murder — the very title of the play forboding it, the Doctor having somehow predicted it all, the related merchandise he has prepared — and that the murder should be presented as a denouement of sorts is most incoherent, given that the material has not drawn significant focus to this at all.

Performance style is complicated further by metatheatrical references which coincide with Pittman’s fading persona of the Doctor: Pittman referencing his involuntary sweat; his stating he ought to “get back into character”; the awkward bumbling as “Eddie Murphy” asks the audience to excuse him whilst he struggles to make his way through them and to the stage; the casual and non-performative manner in which the audience are admitted into the house; and, to some degree, how audience participation is conceived and prompted.

Subtractive items aside, this remains a most enjoyable performance, a rollercoaster treat. Comedy is refined, articulate and well executed, and the facilitative video graphics and overall characterisation we are presented make for a fascinating and inspired watch.

“A hilarious, creative and inspired performance.”


Additional Notes on This Performance [for the Requester of this Analysis]

This technical analysis is included for free as part of The Performance Critic’s standard service. Please get in touch with Lee James Broadwood to receive your additional support and notes, as part of a premium analysis, concerning:

  • Coherency in and organisation of multiple plots/narratives.

  • Finalising performance content, and denouements.

  • Incorporation of secondary characters.

  • Effects of metatheatre and encroachment on audience territory.

  • Inclusion of technical elements and special effects.

These will be shared privately upon request.


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Artists from across the UK and [online] across the globe can also benefit from guidance, support and training in the form of consultations and/or workshops as part of my work as a live performance mentor.


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