The Good Karma Hospital, ITV | reviews, news & interviews
The Good Karma Hospital, ITV
The Good Karma Hospital, ITV
Tropical sun, sutures and surgery in new subcontinental medical drama
There's nothing like a tale set in a warm, exotic climate to lure in the viewers in damp and wintry northern Europe. Send the Nonnatus House midwives to South Africa for Christmas! Shoot a ridiculous detective drama in Guadeloupe! Go back to the Raj with Channel 4's Indian Summers!
It's an old trick and it always works, and it probably will here as well. The title of The Good Karma Hospital makes it sound like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel with added doctors and nurses, but thanks to a crisp and often witty script by Dan Sefton, it stands a good chance of establishing a distinctive identity of its own. Some intelligent casting hasn't hurt a bit.
Plot-wise, they kept it simple for episode one. Dr Ruby Walker (Amrita Acharia) was a junior doctor working in the UK, but when her boyfriend walked out, her personal ceiling fell in. Sobbing miserably in the Ladies at her hospital, she was about to rip a page out of a magazine to use as loo paper (the real thing having run out) when she spotted an advertisement for doctors to go and work in India. Cut to Ruby getting off the plane and squinting in the tropical sunlight (it was her first visit to India, though she's of Indian descent), before being whisked to her destination by a cheerful young man (Sagar Radia) driving a red Mini.However, the destination was not the one she anticipated. Expecting to be taken to the posh clinic she thought she'd applied to, she found herself at the titular Good Karma establishment, an under-staffed, impecunious public hospital where everybody is robustly bossed about by Dr Lydia Fonseca (Amanda Redman, pictured above). Dr Walker was taken aback to find that she had to spend a year working here before she could go to the other place. Wisely, nobody tried to explain how this could have happened without her knowing anything about it.
Thus the stage was set for Dr Walker to be thrown in at the deep end, turning her embarrassingly inexperienced hand to everything from childbirth to fatal knife wounds. Obviously the BMA wouldn't allow this sort of thing in Blighty, but Dr Fonseca positively relishes the challenge of making do with hardly anything. "In this hospital we use knowledge and skill, not fancy tests and expensive drugs," she boomed, in her trademark foghorn style.
Redman is obviously enjoying this role hugely, perhaps because she gets most of the best lines. "This is another half-trained British doctor to practise on Indian people," was how she introduced Ruby to her long-suffering partner at the hospital, Dr Nair (Darshan Jariwala). Her definition of surgery was also a gem ("simple butchery with a little light needlework thrown in"), and her description of sultry but sulky Dr Gabriel Varma (James Floyd, pictured above) as "the human raincloud" equally treasurable.
Dr Varma himself has a way with a one-liner. Dr Walker was alarmed (yet again) to discover that she might even have to have a go at dentistry, but Varma reassured her: "It's easier than it looks, just ask Mari for the pliers." However, even though Varma later tore her off a strip for a procedural blunder, a Varma-Walker romance must be about a 99.3 per cent certainty.
Less predictable was the ongoing leg-over scenario between Dr Fonseca and Greg McConnell, a loveable scallywag who runs a local bar. Neil Morrissey plays him with a judicious blend of lust, sleaze and unscrupulousness. All of human life, as you can see, is here.
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?