Dr Angelus review at Finborough Theatre, London – ‘laced with gallows humour’
Scottish playwright James Bridie had a string of West End hits in the 1930s and 1940s, but this is the first English production of Dr Angelus since its premiere starring Alastair Sim and George Cole in 1947.
The play is loosely based on the true case of murderer Dr Edward Pritchard, who was the last person to be publicly hanged in Glasgow, in 1865, though it is updated to 1920. Part psychological thriller, part black comedy, it’s a strange and sometimes creaky work that is not afraid to take risks.
Recently qualified English doctor George Johnson is delighted to have become a junior partner in the general practice of the unconventional but charismatic Dr Cyril Angelus in Glasgow. After Dr Angelus’s treatment of his own mother-in-law results in her death, George backs his mentor despite poisonous suspicions. But he becomes entangled in a web of deceit where personal loyalty conflicts with medical ethics.
Jenny Ogilvie’s entertaining production follows the play’s low-key realism in the first half, before becoming more heightened and even surreal later on, including a lurid nightmare scene and monologues addressed to the audience.
David Rintoul gives an outstanding performance as a deep-voiced, sinisterly persuasive patriarch Dr Angelus who holds most of those around him in thrall and who believes the usual moral codes do not apply to him. Alex Bhat also does well as the upwardly mobile, strait-laced George who is wracked by doubts and guilt. And Malcolm Rennie doubles as the pompously eccentric consultant Sir Gregory Butt and the drolly shrewd Inspector McIvor.
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