Fifty years ago artist, visionary and writer John Berger and Swiss photographer Jean Mohr publishedA Fortunate Man, a meditation on the role of a doctor that is still widely read by doctors today. It followed the day-to-day life of English country GP John Sassall, witnessing through storytelling and photography his compassion as well as his practice as a physician. Fifteen years after the book's publication, the doctor John Sassall committed suicide.
Taking this tragic event as a starting point, New Perspectives have teamed up with theatre maker Michael Pinchbeck to present the UK's first ever staging of the book to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the NHS. Intertwining the words and experiences of the stoic mid-1960s country doctor, with archive footage, images, and interviews with present day medical practitioners, A Fortunate Manis an urgent exploration of the highs and lows of healthcare and how we care for those who care for us.
Writer and director Michael Pinchbeck has been developing this work through an extensive period of research, interviewing medical practitioners across the country as well as having rare contact with Sasall's remaining family. He said:
"A Fortunate Man speaks of the way a doctor works, but back when the relationship between a doctor and their patients was very different to today. There's a kind of romanticism about it, between the doctor and his work, the author and his subject. There is a lot of topical debate about the state of the NHS so we want to look at how things have changed since it was written."
John Berger was an art critic, novelist, painter and poet who died in January 2017. He won the Booker Prize for his novel G in 1972 and is widely known for his seminal study of art, Ways of Seeing. His family has given their warm blessing to this first UK adaptation of this major book. New Perspectives Artistic Director, Jack McNamara said:
"More than offering a celebration of the book, this project has given us an opportunity to really question what it means to be a doctor and explore the often hidden complexities of that role. Our production takes the book as a starting point to open up one of the most pressing subjects of our time in a year when it is under unprecedented strain."For more on the production click here