The Most Difficult Plays – n° 12
If I were a person with a dubious sense of humour, you might suspect me of making a bad joke when I talk, at such a difficult time, about the so funny Dr. Knock play.
Fortunately, as I am Sweetness, Kindness and Candour embodied, no one will suspect me of having such a bad sense of humour.
So it was totally by chance that I thought this morning, while listening to our ministers, about this play – which is old, it dates back to 1923.
Its subtitle is: The triumph of Medicine
and its adage: “Every healthy man is a sick man who ignores himself”.
This one, frankly, is beautiful. And applied -without laughing- every day now.
Did you see that, the power of literature? It’s not just 1984 that we’re reusing without being embarrassed.
What’s the story?
Here is a French village (we are very good in charming villages) – which has a very nice doctor who doesn’t earn much and who is getting old. The others are peasants, craftsmen, shopkeepers – they all have other things to do than being sick. Their doctor knows them because he goes to the café.
He sells his clientele to his replacement, the very famous Doctor Knock. This clientele is null and void – and therefore cheap.
But Knock is an ambitious man, he doesn’t intend to spend his life in this shabby little hole and die penniless.
So he’s off to conquer his clientele.
Aren’t people sick? They will be.
And they were.
Obviously, at the beginning, nothing works very well. People are not sick.
What can be done?
Play on two flaws: the feeling of having tricked someone – and the fear of dying.
To be used in order, of course.
So he starts by giving free consultations: why not go there, it doesn’t cost anything? : the doctor is tricked….
Then, he takes the teacher on board: to give hygiene lessons is fundamental, miss.
Don’t forget to show in a big way what a microbe is.
Do you want illustrations? Here are a thousand of them. Which one of us, looking at a medical dictionary, didn’t suddenly feel sick of everything?
The people are scared.
And then a little pain – a poor little thing on the tip of your foot, on your lower back – and that’s the medical catastrophe: you have to treat yourself.
And how? In the dark, with water & bread – are you worse off? Buy my medicine, beauty.
In our world, it’s not so funny, is it?
At least, it’s a laugh that leaves an aftertaste. Is it –by any chance– that we’ve been a bit (!) ripped off?
Is this argument so beautiful, so incredible, so magnificent: Take care of you, wouldn’t hide a trick?
Well, when I don’t think about taking care of myself, I live. But when I think about it, then – but yes, of course, wait, I am careful: I avoid anything that will prevent me from living.
Risky? Never, never – never anything risky, hola I take care of myself.
Okay I live under a bell.
I no longer live simply, neither healthily nor serenely.
It doesn’t matter: there are medications for that too.
All I have to do is : buy the good doctor’s medication.
And above all, to tell others to do as I do: if they don’t pay attention, seriously ? , what’s the point of me paying attention to myself? The bastards, they want to kill me, to live simply, like a bunch of scatterbrains. That’s what the whole Dr. Knock fan club is saying to anyone who wants to hear it.
Sounds weird right now, doesn’t it?
And by the way, you remember that movie, when you have to choose between the blue pill and the red pill – when is the hero offered to choose nothing?
No no, since Knock we’ve entered the world of the little pills you have to take to live.
– I definitely don’t like that movie. My answer is: go to hell with your pills. – well, okay, there were some good things though.
So it’s true that a theatre doesn’t do politics – I maintain, there are public stages to play that.
But to make us laugh about major defects to which we gave in – out of pure egocentricity – that’s very possible.
And it’s very, very healthy for our minds.
So, yes, I would definitely suggest going and laughing at Knock and its gullible clients: at the moment, that’s perfectly topical. And what’s more, it’s really funny, and only laughter can destroy all our ridicule in one fell swoop.
This play is not very difficult.
On the other hand, it is very difficult to convey to the audience. Wouldn’t we be a bit taken for idiots? – It’s quite an art to manage to make us laugh at our faults. So it is part of my series: The Most Difficult Plays, without hesitation.
Featured Image : Louis Jouvet – Knock, by Jules Romains – 1951 – So I can only end like this: take care of yourself, of course – but, please, above all, let’s laugh. It feels so good to be next to the bell.