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Part stand up, part confessional, fully educational

Medic comedienne knocks the socks off JAMES WALSH with a show that tells us quite a lot about where we are and - more worryingly - where we might be going

Stefania Licari: Medico
Museum of Comedy
Holborn, London

 

DR FOX, infamously, was neither a real doctor nor a real fox.

Dr Mario was actually Japanese, and given his carefree attitude to drug management, his medical qualifications are at best dubious.

Stefania Licari is both a real doctor and a real Italian, a trained actor and clown, and has stitched together all these disparate parts, foxily, for her debut solo show, Medico.

Performing as her alter-ego, Dr Anna LaRosa, Licari is exaggeratedly, almost ludicrously charming. She clearly is having a lot of fun playing up to stereotypes; conversely, I’m pretty sure this medical professional turned performer loves cheese, opera, and sexy dancing just as much as LaRosa does.

Part stand up, part confessional, fully educational, this show, directed by Chris Head, also has room for truth and love. Holding everything together is a pleasing and rewarding central narrative with plenty of laughs and plenty of callbacks.

Amid the broader, crowd-pleasing antics there is examination of Britain’s awful attitude to immigrants, a pulse check on the state of our fragmented health service, and moments of genuine sadness.

With props galore, including a medical skeleton, a liquid that may or may not be urine, and a figure prone on a hospital bed, our hero paints a vivid portrait of life in the emergency ward.

There are pensioners who would rather die than be treated by a foreigner, doomed affairs with drearily named gynaecologists, and the gallows humour and necessary levity that helped these overworked professionals get through an unprecedented pandemic.

An extremely engaging performer, some of Licari’s best moments came with the ad-libs and audience interaction, particularly when responding to the sirens of an ambulance passing outside, or quite rightly mocking English schwas and sensibilities.

Ours was a slightly shy, midweek crowd, who missed a few of the jokes and more serious moments, and this reviewer would love to have seen a few more attempts to nudge them out of their comfort zone.

Similarly, the singing, dancing, and physical comedy, which artfully breaks up the narrative, could have been turned up to 11, and some of the transitions could have been slicker.

But ultimately this is a heartfelt, generous show that marries the personal and the professional that tells us quite a lot about where we are and — more worryingly — where we might be going.

Stefania Licari: Medico is on at the Edinburgh Fringe August 4-14 and 16-28 2022.

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