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Monday Man : Break a leg – there’s a doctor in the house

I’ve met and interviewed many fascinating people, both famous and non famous. But sometimes you speak to someone who just inspires you to think differently. Nadeem Crowe is one such interviewee. Dr Nadeem Crowe to give him his formal title.

I wouldn’t have known that when I first saw him though because it wasn’t in a medical setting. He was singing and acting on stage in the magnificent London coliseum, somewhere to the right of Hollywood legend Glenn Close. Yes, that Glenn Close; Fatal attraction, les liaisons dangereuses , 101Dalmations and on this night, Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard.

Nadeem Crowe, on a break from medical practice, was in the west end theatrical event of the year.

” I think with most careers, particularly vocational ones there is this belief that you need to be enveloped in it 100% to do well. I don’t agree. I think you can do more than one thing well or at a high level.”

Crowe knew from the start that he wanted to pursue both the careers he was drawn to; medicine and musical theatre. The son of a groundbreaking female TV presenter in conservative, Jordan and an English guitarist father who once played with the Beatles and early Moody Blues, music and entertainment was in his blood. He plays piano and sax and spent his childhood in orchestras and choirs. At family gatherings he, his father and brother rather endearingly play as a band, Status Crowe.

Halfway through medical school he was torn between continuing and studying drama at LAMDA. In the end, he decided he would do both. He completed his medical studies and got himself a theatrical agent. Luckily for him the agent knew the competing pull of the two professions because he had always wanted to be a doctor!

So, Nadeem set off on his double life. During the day he tended to the sick and in the evenings he performed in fringe theatre productions and plays above pubs. He didn’t always get paid but he loved it and was lucky that getting an audition didn’t mean the difference between being able to pay his rent or not.

He doesn’t see much difference between those early days and doing shows in the west end. Of course the facilities are better in big productions, “I don’t need to take my costume home to wash and there are dressers waiting in the wings to help you change between scenes but a big show has no more magic than a small one. It’s just from a different perspective.”

Perspective is something Nadeem Crowe knows well. When I ask him about the pain of rejection after an audition, he answers simply “I’m disappointed, of course when I don’t get a part but then I go into the hospital and someone can’t get the treatment they need because of a lack of resources. Medicine gives you perspective.”

He specializes in geriatric medicine in TREAT, the Triage and Rapid Elderly Assessment Team. He chose this field ‘because few doctors want to go into it, it’s not glamorous. “Yet elderly people are the most grateful patients, the most stoic, the least judgemental. They’re grateful that anybody cares enough to keep them alive. When we keep undertaking tests to see what is wrong with them, they’re being given an important message ‘your life is worth sustaining ‘ and that keeps them going.”

He tells me that the elderly are the highest suicide risks, that social isolation is a huge problem and identifying depression in the elderly is very difficult because it gets lost among the other problems they have.

With an ageing population I ask him what he makes of elderly people being abandoned by their relatives. He pulls a face. The idea is alien to him with his Jordanian background where the young are expected to care for their old and largely do so. Many of his patients live alone. “Children appear when there is a crisis but they often haven’t done much to prevent the crisis. Nursing homes are then a knee jerk reaction.”

He says it’s harder too, now, to set an age when a person can be termed ‘geriatric’. “80 can be young, these are people who still use social media, they don’t want to be classed as geriatric.” He admits that the elderly also don’t, generally like going to hospital. “It makes them think, is this the end?”

It struck him that many of his senior colleagues often did die shortly after retiring as if having been doctors/consultants, they now had nothing more to live for. He doesn’t want that single purpose for his own life. “That’s why I do other things.”

The casting call for Sunset Boulevard came after he had failed to secure a part in Sweeney Todd the year before. He was due to go on holiday on the day of the audition. His parents advised him not to cancel the trip. He didn’t but decided to postpone it by a few days and take the chance.

He did the audition and later dropped a euro in the fountain at the Vatican. He got the part.

So, the pope helped you get the part I suggest? Yes, he laughs.

Glenn Close was a friendly, down to earth lead. She took the time to get to know the cast and joined in with social events. Watching her work was a fantastic experience. “A huge movie star playing someone strong but also fragile and mad.”

He says any of the ensemble cast could play a lead. Overall the experience was heady “it’s Saturday night, every night” but ultimately it was also a job, something to be worked at.

Like his medical career. he will go back to now the show has closed after a short sell-out run.

What advice would he give his 20 year old self?

“Take the pressure off yourself. You don’t have to always be the best at something, sometimes it’s better to let things just come to you.”

He doesn’t really have a favourite actor but rather judges each performance individually. The most recent performance that impressed him was Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl.

His favourite fictional doctor is House because the tv doc played by Hugh Laurie ‘thinks outside the box even if he does blame everything on lupus! But then everything IS lupus,” he says with a grin.

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