Fringe medicine

10th October 2018 by Judith Harvey

Fringe medicine

Medics have a long-standing relationship with the annual August circus that is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Medical students reprise their pantomimes as reviews. Specialty registrars mine their store of horror stories to test whether a career in theatrical stand-up would be more rewarding than a career standing up in an operating theatre – former obstetrician Adam Kay is one who made the move. Peri-retirement consultants play the Fringe one last time, creaking their way happily through the old routines.

There is never a shortage of shows of professional interest to doctors. I don’t usually turn to the BMJ for cultural hints, but they highlighted The Mould that Changed the World. It’s a musical about the history, blessings and problems of misuse of penicillin. Well, you know the story. In truth, it isn’t a great show for grown-ups. More fun to be a child performing it in a school production. And hopefully taking in the message.

I hold up my hand: I have never understood why for so many doctors John Berger and Jean Mohr’s book A Fortunate Man, about GP John Sassall, encapsulates the ideal to which all doctors should strive. I hoped a show examining how the book was made and claiming to compare medical practice then and now might change my prejudice. Sadly, no. Sassall apparently acknowledged every patient utterance with “I know”. Really? Did no-one find that irritating? And the final statement, about how Sassall was so devoted to patients he wouldn’t have put up with the current box-ticking, I found patronising. Do the show’s authors think modern GPs prefer paperwork to patients?

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