Oscar Wilde regarded the theatre as the “most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being”. I’ve no idea what he was talking about but I often feel I don’t want to read or write another word about homeopathy, so it’s nice to blog about something else for a change.
The play happens to be “set around the world of alternative medicine, specifically homeopathy,” as writer and producer, Trent Burton, puts it. To be very specific, one of the characters is a homeopath and she’s promoting homeopathy.
Just in case ten-foot bargepoles spring to mind, I’ve seen the script and it’s pretty funny. Of course, it’s easy to get a cheap laugh out of ridiculing homeopathy and people like Mitchell & Webb and Dara Ó Briain do it brilliantly. (Edit: Just seen this one with Jack Dee). But it’s also easy for homeopaths to claim that they’re misrepresented in comedy and, to be fair, they’re usually right.
The homeopath in Alternative isn’t a figure of fun. She’s sincere, well-meaning and very believable. She explains homeopathy much like any other homeopath I’ve ever heard, so there’s really nothing for them to complain about. Well, they might quibble over the portrayal of the homeopath-patient relationship but — hello! — the patient is her brother. She already knows him and all about his problem. I think homeopaths and skeptics agree — though not for the same reason — that the time spent offloading to a homeopath is the most important part of the homeopathic experience, so to speak. I don’t know if making it a family affair was a cunning device employed by Trent Burton to spare us the lengthy ‘holistic’ consultation needed for an individualised remedy, but it works for me.
Talking of holistic consultations, I wandered into Ainsworths pharmacy in London recently and showed one of the white-coated staff the annoying flat wart that’s been squatting on my fingertip for the past twenty years, defying all attempts to remove it. She mentioned thuja as the homeopathic remedy of choice for warts, helpfully adding that, “It might work or it might not”.
She then advised me that the best thing would be to treat it “constitutionally”, which necessitated at least one full consultation with a homeopath so that an individualised remedy could be prescribed. An appointment would cost about £70 not including the ‘remedy’ or any follow-up appointments.
Over seventy quid to try to remove a wart by means of a nice chat and a few drops of H2O. Charlatans.
Anyway, there is no consultation with the homeopath in Alternative and, as both the homeopath and the conventional doctor come across as right twats in their different ways, there shouldn’t be any complaints from quacks about lack of balance. Some might feel conventional medicine is misrepresented in the person of the twattish GP but who cares? The play is a character comedy and the exchange with the GP, while high in comedic value, is frustrating for the patient in a way that will resonate with loads of people, including me.
The play isn’t preachy and doesn’t expose the darker side of homeopathy or bang on about the dangers of quackery like so many of us do. It’s a comedy after all — it’s supposed to make us laugh. Go find out if it does.
By the way, the Homeopathic Regulation Survey, which went viral a few days is still online. It only takes a minute or two to respond to the loaded questions and doesn’t the whiny tone of Question 7 set your teeth on edge?
7. Why do you think homeopaths are being treated in this way?
The survey is anonymous. Although the colour scheme has led to some suggestion that it is the work of the Society of Homeopaths — and the survey is so idiotic that it wouldn’t surprise me if this were true — a spokeswoman for the Society has categorically denied it:
Thank you for your message. No this survey has nothing to do with the Society.
All the best
Given that the survey is unlikely to provide ‘X’ with the results they were hoping for, remaining anonymous makes it very easy to bury them and pretend the survey never happened. In any event, a lot of people say they enjoyed completing the survey so give it a go if you haven’t done already and then check out Alternative’s facebook page for an opportunity to win free tickets to the play on the strength of your answer to that last question.
Finally, this week’s episode of The Pod Delusion features an exclusive clip of the show together with interviews with Trent Burton and with a spokeswoman for the Nightingale Collaboration, who says pretty much the same thing as I’ve just written, funnily enough.
PS. Although this post hasn’t been about homeopathy, I’ll take the liberty of posting a link to my new, unfinished website: Discover Homeopathy.