About the English stages, Stories from the refugee camp

LONDON – “Wash your hands! Wash your hands!” That plea has resonated around the world in recent years, and it has had a topical effect on “Dr. Semmelweis,“Takes place on February 19 at the Bristol Old Vic, a beautiful 18th-century playhouse in south-west England.

Its urgent speaker was a famous physician, a Hungarian-born physician in 19th-century Vienna who pioneered sterilization and died in 1865, aged 47. This was left to Later doctors such as Joseph Lister took over his work.

The play tells the age-old story of a man against the system, in this case a visionary with a desire to reverse the high mortality rate among young mothers who went against a basis mostly inattentive. Worthy of Ibsen and previously recorded in a Howard Sackler play that circled Broadway but never made it there, Semmelweis’ story here emerged as a star vehicle for Mark Rylance. The multi-award winning actor (three Academy Awards and one Academy Award) co-wrote the play with Stephen Brown.

The director, Tom Morris, runs the venerable Bristol location and has given Semmelweis’s all-too-short life a hectic, bustling production that includes actors that occasionally spill from Ti Green’s turntable into auditorium, with musicians and dancers present to amplify the discordant feelings of the piece. The dancers, choreographed by Antonia Franceschi, bring swirling physical expression to the increasingly disturbed minds of Semmelweis and the mothers who have lost their lives to hygiene neglect. The Salomé String Quartet weaves between events, playing Schubert’s snatch and presenting highly artistic beauty to some serious themes.

If all this sounds like too much embellishment, it’s fair to say that the first act especially feels as if theatrical business is being used to disguise some text. pre-written. The play begins at the end, with Semmelweis in Hungary recalling, along with his seemingly placid wife, Maria (Thalissa Teixeira), a polluted Vienna atmosphere that has irreparably damaged to the doctor’s psyche.

How could a vaunted “city of new ideas” not respond more quickly to the investigations of a young man who was aware of chlorine’s disinfecting potential? The grocer’s son determined that the death rate in the world’s largest hospital – like Vienna General then – was three times higher in the doctor’s office than in midwives. The “cadaveric particles” believed to be the culprit, were transferred by unclean hands from the autopsy room to the cesarean section and turned the hospital into a de facto slaughterhouse.

The locals don’t have it. “The nut by name, the natural nut,” one of Semmelweis’ colleagues refutely remarked when mentioning the upstart Ignaz’s name. Never mind that insults mean nothing as these people may not speak English.

After the pause, the nature of the flat, exposed writing continues. If Semmelweis is right, we are told, “the whole future of medicine will be changed.” There is also a line about the possible effectiveness of bleach that draws parallels with one of the more specific proposals to defeat the current pandemic.

Through it all, Rylance is an energetic physical presence. He brings stammering restlessness to the role of a radical thinker whose thoughts sometimes go beyond his words. You have to smile as this frugal actor – lauded on both television and film, but first and foremost for his dedication to the stage – talks about “not wanting to waste time in the cinema either”, and it’s great to find among such supporting actors a colleague in the cinema as Alan Williams, in strict form as the obstetrician Johann Klein, Semmelweis’ nemesis.

More than anything, “Dr. Semmelweis “stimulated the appetite for Rylance to return to the London stage in April, recreating his seismic performance in the play Jez Butterworth”Jerusalem“First seen at the Royal Court in 2009. That very London address, an important one for the new text, is now hosting a play by Alistair McDowall,”The Glow“It’s really crazy, even though it’s fascinating.

The title character of “Dr. Semmelweiss” dies unreservedly in a refugee camp, and McDowall’s time-travelling film begins a year or two earlier, with a scared, dim-lit character living in a doorless cell book. That figure, a woman (Ria Zmitrowicz), is later seen in any setting and century, from the 1300s, in the company of a warrior-like figure (Tadhg Murphy), who may have strayed from “Game of Thrones,” to AD 343 and forward to the 1970s and beyond.

What in heaven is happening? You can ask McDowall about his 2016 play for the Royal Court,”X“Set on Pluto.

Wonderful and apocalyptic only to become poetically gripping in its closing monologue, “The Glow” is best viewed as a sensory experience in which light and sound merge with imagination. the writer’s flight to create a lonely and difficult world but nonetheless allows the warmth of the title. The pause, just 40 minutes or so, gives the audience plenty of time to reflect on what they’ve watched.

The more literal theatergoer will be distracted by the play’s deliberate blurriness, but that in itself follows the trail of the flex test of a theater partially defined by the playwright. Caryl ChurchillCurious and unconventional people might have given McDowall a cue.

As for myself, I must commend the extremely frugal production of Vicky Featherstone, the Court’s artistic director, in tandem with a design team, in which Jessica Hung Han Yun’s nimble light reigns. Supreme. Fisayo Akinade and Rakie Ayola offer pound support as more recognizable participants in a world where Zmitrowicz’s original mute woman has a hesitant relationship. First seen as a medium of spiritualism – yes, you read that right – Ayola also exhibits a lovely voice.

With a mysterious specter at the center of the play, McDowall gave a gift to Zmitrowicz, a rapidly rising actress who was largely noticed by the end of the film. Almeida. Alternating moody and feverish, intoxicating yet eloquent, this performer captures our attention throughout, even as the play she’s in is raging around her.

Dr. Semmelweis. Directed by Tom Morris. Bristol Old Vic, through February 19.

The Glow. Directed by Vicky Featherstone. Royal Court Theatre, through March 5. About the English stages, Stories from the refugee camp

Fry Electronics Team

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