Home Bristolian Review: Dr Semmelweis at Bristol Old Vic is another must-watch

Review: Dr Semmelweis at Bristol Old Vic is another must-watch


I could feel the excitement building ahead of a visit to the Bristol Old Vic. Having had the pleasure of watching several plays there, it never disappoints.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Dr Semmelweis, having never heard about him before, but I was gripped from the first scene. Working at a hospital in Vienna, Dr Semmelweis discovers something that could save hundreds of thousands of new mothers from childbed fever, which was killing thousands in 19th century.

The play tells a very interesting set of events in a captivating manner. It feels like there is always lots going on – musicians, dancers, doctors, all on the stage – but at the same time the play is easy to follow.

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Mark Rylance as Doctor Semmelweis was simply stunning and I was moved by his performance as he perfectly portrayed how the doctor must have felt, both when he made the discovery and when the medical establishment rejected him.

Dancing is also featured in the show, which was an unexpected but welcome addition. I particularly enjoyed the ballet and, if anything, I wish they had danced for longer. The music was also gorgeous and played in perfect time with the actor’s performance, bringing the show to the next level.

There is also a great level of detail to the scenography, and the outfits worn on stage appear to be a true reflection of those times.

Dr Semmelweis tells an amazing but little-known story very well. It is an important play that teaches us about something that most people probably don’t know much about it. It also makes you reflect not just on how much we have learnt, but also on how much we don’t know yet.

Another interesting aspect of the play is that it shows how research works, by looking for patterns. In what is quite a heavy play at times, there were also some lighter moments of fun, which was a relief after some scenes that were more challenging for the audience.

It is another must-watch at the Bristol Old Vic.

Dr Semmelweis is at the Bristol Old Vic until February 12. Tickets start at £10 and you can buy them here.

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