Published: 14 April, 2011
by SEBASTIAN TAYLOR
THERE’S immense fun to be had in The Doctor’s Tale being performed this week at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio, Covent Garden.
Terry Jones, one of the Monty Pythons and a Highgate resident, conceived the story and wrote the libretto.
It’s a Pythonesque fable about Dr Scout, a GP much-loved by his patients who is struck off by the General Medical Council because he is a dog with floppy ears.
After doing time in the dog pound, Dr Scout is chased and shot, enjoys a near-death experience meeting his mother in dog heaven and is eventually restored to his practice by his loving patients.
Quite correctly, they argue, there is nothing in the GMC rulebook saying a dog cannot be a GP or a GP a dog.
His patients are keen to have him back because, unlike some of today’s human GPs, he doesn’t prescribe anti-depressants. Rather, he prefers to prescribe good doses of mutual affection, 27 doses for depression.
The Jones libretto is delightfully witty, written in rhyming couplets and full of puns, providing a comic fantasy for composer Anne Dudley to write some lovely music.
She’s an experienced musician, best known for her Oscar-winning score for The Full Monty.
Her music for The Doctor’s Tale is surprisingly melodious with a whiff of Kurt Weill here and Stephen Sondheim there.
When Dr Scout is behind bars in the dog pound, he’s joined by Rover the Headmaster and Mollie from the Isle of Dogs in singing a great trio, “Put Down”, that could be an American spiritual with a few howls thrown in.
Tenor Darren Abrahams excels as Dr Scout and there are good contributions from other singers performing multiple roles.
Conductor Tim Murray keeps a tight rein on proceedings, extracting some sharp playing from the 12-piece Orchestra Chroma.
Preceding the Jones/ Dudley work is The Tell-Tale Heart based on the Edgar Allen Poe story. The music and libretto are by Steward Copeland, the one-time drummer with the band The Police, and now a multi-genre composer.
Both works were commissioned by the ROH.