May 15, 2023

Doctor duo’s stage show examines notorious GPs

Two trusted but notorious doctors linked to hundreds of patient deaths are examined by two medical mates in a docu-drama coming to the Norfolk stage in June.

Harold Shipman killed around 250 of his patients in Greater Manchester between 1971 and his arrest in 1998. But it may have been more. He was convicted of 15 counts of murder and sentenced to life in prison where he hanged himself in 2004.

John Bodkin Adams was suspected of killing 150 of his patients between 1935 and 1956 in Eastbourne – many of them wealthy widows who left him their fortunes. He escaped the noose after being acquitted of murder in a high-profile 1957 trial but died after a fall in the 1980s when his story was also turned into a TV movie.

The two were well-loved and respected in their communities but may have been responsible for more than 600 deaths of the people they cared for.

Their stories take the spotlight again in a stage show called Dial Medicine for Murder, created by two good doctors – Norfolk-born Dr Harry Brunjes and his pal since medical school days Dr Andrew Johns.

The show will be at Sheringham Little Theatre on Friday June 16 at 7.30pm. It explores – via chat, role playing, and film footage – the stories and similarities of the two trusted GPs.

Dr Brunjes said: “Both were ultra-nice to their patients, but rude to staff. They were devoted to their mothers and isolated personalities.

Bodkin Adams and Shipman

“People love cops and robbers stories and TV mysteries. This real life story began when Andrew and I talked about the two doctors during a dinner party.”

The two good doctors both have connections to the bad ones. Andrew gave evidence at the Shipman trial and Bodkin Adams was a frequent visitor to the house, Folkington Manor in Sussex, where Harry now lives.

Dr Brunjes explained: “We initially did it as an academic lecture for the Royal Society for Medicine initially, then zapped it up a bit into a stage show using a director, films and slides. We also look at the trials, victims’ stories, the legacies of their cases, how they got away with it for so long and whether it could happen again.

“After trying it out in rooms above pubs in London, we took it to the Edinburgh Festival and it really took off into a national tour. It is an enjoyable pastime for us – and hopefully helps raise funds for the two theatres.”

Dr Brunjes is a big supporter of the arts – as chairman of English National Opera and London Coliseum theatre which has 2400 seats, as well as having a 150-seat theatre in his home at Folkington Manor in East Sussex.

Earlier in his life, to help pay for his medical studies, he was a holiday entertainer Red Coat then singer and comic visiting venues including Great Yarmouth ‘s Wellington Pier, as well as appearing in the 1970s TV series Rock Follies as a punk pianist. His wife Jacqueline is a singer, dancer and choreographer and their four grown up children all work in the performing arts.

For tickets and more details click here

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