(Tim Walker’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 10/24.)

Rather in the way that Mohammed looked upon his mountain, Londoners tend to take the view that theatre, if it is any good, will, sooner or later, come to them. The corollary, of course, is that everything playing in the capital is touched by greatness. Suffice it to say that a show has opened in the city called Loserville.

A few days earlier, and without fanfare, the curtain went up in York on The Guinea Pig Club. It’s a new play by Susan Watkins about the pioneering plastic surgery and psychological support that the New Zealand-born physician Sir Archibald McIndoe gave to the RAF airmen who were horrifically injured during the war.

Damian Cruden’s production glows with fine, old-fashioned virtues: the story of the so-called “guinea pigs” is compelling, but also educational; it celebrates our country and the human spirit; and the members of the ensemble, while they may not be big star names, have, for the most part, good, solid stage backgrounds and are eminently believable in their roles.

It has the virtue, too, of a writer who is passionate about her subject, and with good reason. Sid Watkins – Susan’s husband, who died a couple of weeks after the play started rehearsals – was the neurosurgeon whose work with Formula One racing built upon what Sir Archibald had begun.


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