Coming soon to a theatre near me…

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.

Alternative is a new comedy play presented by Trunkman Productions — a small production company working mainly in fringe theatre — in association with the Nightingale Collaboration.

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.

Alternative is doing two nights at the Camden fringe on 3/4 August and returning to the Etcetera theatre for six nights from 13th September.

Homeopathy Survey

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

Maria Apps
Senior Manager

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.


10 thoughts on “Coming soon to a theatre near me…”

  1. Suggestion 1.
    On “Discover Homeopathy, list the obscure Latin named potions, what it really is and what its similarity is. As you mention, onions make you cry so must be good for tear related problems. I wonder if a proper dilution of tincture of onions can cure depression, because it is obvious that crying must make you depressed.

    Suggestion 2.
    Start a decent blog on herbal treatments, as this is the next step up from water to things that may actually help. I believe there are some people who definitely benefit from some plants and others see no effect. It’s a bit like finding what works with a child out of 20-30 suggestions, one or two may work on yours. A quick look at Google did not show any web sites with herbal advice w/o a sales connection, except Wikipedia.

    This sort of stuff is interesting: looked at Echinacea and recovering from the common cold.

  2. Thanks, Jim. I’ll try to do more on the DH site in time for the next homeopathy awareness week but it ain’t half boring doing stuff on homeopathy.

    I’m very interested in herbal treatments so thanks for the link.

  3. From:

    Friday, August 19, 2011
    Based in France, Boiron, a huge multinational maker of homeopathic- remedies, is suing an Italian blogger, Samuele Riva, for saying oscillococcinum, the companys featured flu medication, has no active ingredient. Congratulations Sam, I gave up trying to get Boiron to sue me, years ago but the Center for Inquiry, of which I’m a member, is pleading with Boiron to sue us. “Anas barbariae hepatis et cordis extractum,” is listed as the active ingredient by the company. Its prepared at a concentration of 200CK HPUS from the liver of the Barbary duck. The 200CK means the solution has been diluted 1 part in 100, shaken, and repeated sequentially 200 times. HPUS means the medication is listed in the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the United States, and prepared according to 1938 federal guidelines. Its a national disgrace that the antiquated law sanctioning homeopathy, introduced by Sen. Royal Copeland, himself a homeopathist, is still be on the books. The dilution claim is totally meaningless. Somewhere around the 30th of the 200 sequential dilutions, the dilution limit of Earth would be reached, with the entire Earth becoming the solute. That is, the possibility of even one molecule of the duck-liver extract remaining in the solution beyond that point would be negligible. Long before the 200th dilution, the dilution limit of the entire visible universe would have been reached. This is all quite meaningless. Astronomers put the number of atoms in the visible universe at about 10 to the 80th power. It would take many universes to get to a dilution of 200 C.

  4. I was looking at the Phobia List on Wikipedia, especially at the short Jocular and fictional list. It occurred to me that some humorous phobias might zing alt-med practices. I offer:
    Dilutiphobia – fear of extremely diluted alt-meds.
    Hannemanophobia – Fear of homeopathy; see also dilutiphobia and homeopatheticaphobia.
    κυκλικήphobia – Fear of nonsense from the Greek for circular(κυκλική).(ala babelfish)

    The above should be edited and expanded. A published blog containing the terms could be referenced as a source for a Wikipedia entry.

  5. A Limerick might do:

    In Seventeen Hundred Ninety Six
    Sam Hahnemann made the very first mix,
    By the Law of Similars
    Then dilution by swindlers,
    Established the profession of nicks.

    Where “nick” is the British slang for steal,
    so “nicks” is stealing, (repetitively).
    I wish the last line was better.

  6. More on Boiron from Stephen Barrett’s
    Consumer Health Digest #11-28
    September 1, 2011
    [email protected]

    FDA urged to get tougher on homeopathy.

    The Center for Inquiry and Committee for Skeptical Inquiry have filed three petitions asking the FDA to address various aspects of the homeopathic marketing.

    **One petition asks the agency to initiate rulemaking that would
    require all over-the-counter homeopathic drugs to meet the same
    standards of effectiveness as non-homeopathic drugs. Although the FDA has the authority to require homeopathic drugs to undergo testing for effectiveness, it has not done so. This petition also asks the agency to require warning labels on homeopathic products unless they are shown to be effective.

    **The second petition asks the FDA to order Boiron to label the
    allegedly active ingredient in Oscillococcinum in English. This
    product, an alleged flu remedy, is said to be made by repeatedly
    diluting an extract of duck liver and heart. However, the label uses a Latin phrase to identify the ingredient, even though federal regulations require product to labels be written in English.

    **The third petition complains that Boiron’s advertising falsely
    suggests that Oscillococcinum has received FDA approval.

    Many homeopathic products–including Oscillococcinum–contain no
    molecules of the original substance(s).

    FDA regulations require the FDA to respond to citizen petitions with 180 days. However, a similar petition, filed in 1994 by Dr. Stephen Barrett and 41 other concerned persons, received no response.
    For additional information about Oscillococcinum, see

  7. What response do you want? That your “sources” are crap and nobody will take you seriously until you provide real sources? You already know that, yet you continue linking to youtube and quack websites.

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