Need A Doctor? Why A Comedy Musical Can Fill the Void for Whovians

We are currently in the midst of the barren lands where a series has finished some months ago and the next instalments will not be coming in to view on the horizon until the Autumn. So how does a Whovian get their fix until then? The answer has arrived in the shape of an award-winning musical...

It has been a decade since Doctor Who regenerated on television and once again became essential viewing for generations of sci-fi fans. It is arguably a bigger deal now than it was in its previous heyday, with every episode scrutinised and dissected in such a way that the writers have to be sure that they are experts on who and where the Doctor has interacted with creatures from other worlds. One fact out of place and social media is ablaze with corrections.

We are currently in the midst of the barren lands where a series has finished some months ago and the next instalments will not be coming in to view on the horizon until the Autumn. So how does a Whovian get their fix until then?

The answer has arrived in the shape of an award-winning musical that will be arriving at the West End this Easter before popping up at the Brighton Fringe Festival. 'I Need a Doctor - The Whosical' entertained the crowd at the Edinburgh Fringe and now the comedy is landing in the capital to fill the void left when Peter Capaldi's Doctor disappeared from the television.

So who has the idea of turning one of the world's most popular doctors in to a musical comedy? Step forward James Wilson-Taylor and Jessica Spray who used the concept during their final year of drama school. It turned out to be more than just coursework.

"Jess and I came up with the idea for the show in 2012" explains Wilson-Taylor, "and from there, we wrote it up into an hour-long show and our producer Anna Haigh set up a meeting at the Pleasance who took us on for Edinburgh Fringe 2013."

It was foot on the throttle from this point as director Ben Occhipinti, who has a reputation for musical theatre, came on board and performing some 'work in progress' shows at the Pleasance they were ready to take on the Fringe.

"We had a great run that year, winning the MTN award for Best Newcomer," enthuses Wilson-Taylor, "after which we rewrote some bits and expanded our set and then started touring the UK during 2014 and now this year."

To write a musical based upon the intricacies of the long-running sci-fi series takes a certain amount of knowledge of the characters, so it makes sense that James Wilson-Taylor and Jessica Spray are big fans. This helps with Spray' fangirl persona of her character as the show plays out through the eyes of the assistant.

"I can remember watching the Paul McGann TV special as a kid back in the nineties but I only became a regular viewer when 'New-who' started with Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant," remembers Wilson-Taylor, "I had seen some older episodes on TV but one of the nice things about doing this show has been going back through older doctors and discovering their stories afresh."

At least if you are going to write a musical about Doctor Who it pretty much gives you carte blanche to go anywhere in space and time, which leaves a big canvas to map out your plot. "I also love that the show never takes itself too seriously. There are many poignant moments but its always shot through with a great sense of humour", explains Wilson-Taylor before adding, "you can have an historical epic one week and an alien invasion the next."

With this in mind, where did they look to take their Doctor? In to a copyright battle with the BBC obviously and there is the crux of the musical. How do you put on a show about Doctor Who without falling foul of one of the world's biggest media organisation? Well, it certainly caught their attention as Wilson-Taylor explains.

"BBC News did a story on us in the first year and said it was so good they promised not to sue us. So obviously that went straight on the poster. We also got reviewed by Doctor Who Magazine who were very kind - 'An incredible amount of fun'"

And the corporation was not the only one that had praise for the production, some cast members from the series including comedian Frank Skinner, a huge whovian, have showered the duo with compliments."I also remember someone from the art team in Cardiff getting lots of photos of our homemade set - they got a definite kick out of our cardboard kick-line of doctors."

With 'I need a doctor' taking a residency at Leicester Square for Easter week, it looks like a bagful of nerves will be heading the way of Wilson-Taylor instead of a nest of chocolate eggs. "We played at Bestival last year, which was incredibly nervewracking as we had no idea what to expect. But the crowd were really into it and having played Leicester Square theatre last year we are looking forward to being there again."

It is going to be a busy time with the Whosical arriving on the south coast for the Brighton Fringe Festival but that hasn't stopped Wilson-Taylor setting his sights on another popular hero. "I'm now working on my first solo show for Edinburgh Fringe this year, called 'Bat-fan', a Batman based comedy with songs and sketches," he explains "it'll be directed by Jon Brittain and I'm excited to take on a new subject and find the comedy in it. I'm looking forward to being back in Edinburgh for a third year running."

So if you are wandering the West End over the Easter period and you hear an intermittent whooshing sound get louder before disappearing, then you know that the Whosical's cardboard T.A.R.D.I.S. has landed and the audiences are rolling in the aisles with laughter and this is without a threat of extermination to guarantee it.

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