Fifty years ago, the writer John Berger and the photographer Jean Mohr published A Fortunate Man, a book documenting the six weeks they spent shadowing a GP working in the Forest of Dean. It went on to become a seminal text in medicine. Fifteen years later, the doctor committed suicide.
Both a tribute to the people working tirelessly to heal this country and to those struggling with mental health conditions, this multimedia adaptation of A Fortunate Man fittingly honours the 70th anniversary of the NHS. Projected photos from the book show rural landscapes of rolling hills, picturesque farmhouses and a doctor at work. The serenity sharply contrasts the accidents and ailments the doctor encounters, which are narrated by two performers. The care and dedication he has for his patients, the entire population of the isolated village, is touching. It also draws attention to the pressures doctors work under today – too little time, too few resources and too many budget cuts. If we as a society are not careful, more doctors will suffer the same fate as the doctor in this story.
Michael Pinchbeck’s staging is too busy, with some unnecessary slow motion sequences. There’s a lot to see, from a scattering of fallen leaves to a sprinkling of shredded paper, that don’t contribute much to the production. It’s lovely to look at, but adds little. The portrayal of this country doctor is warm and timely. With the NHS under increasing pressure to meet higher targets with less funding, it’s important to appreciate those who keep us well.