Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Review: Nought like a bit of NHS bashing

THIS play has its heart in the right place but its head in the sand. It’s an ensemble piece about the state of the NHS — and it wouldn’t be out of place at a Unison conference as a propaganda ploy to stiffen the workers.

Stella Feehily’s polemic from Out of Joint is a fascinating dramatic ride but boy does it preach. It starts with Aneurin Bevan’s 1948 Commons speech launching the Health Service. That forms the basis for the rest of what follows — basically: what a noble idea, and why has it been betrayed?

The star of the play is the issue itself and it has some valid points — why is the NHS understaffed? Why did we sit back and do nothing when the Public Sector Finance initiatives syphoned off so much public money? Why do we not scrap Trident to pay for the whole hospital system?

But it only asks the questions and makes angry statements about them. It doesn’t provide any answers. That’s where its naïveté shows.

It’s an engaging theatrical experience calling on a great range from the whole cast and a central role played to perfection by Stefanie Cole. The theatrical devices keep it running and go some way to breaking up the lecture.And there are moments of levity — it’s not all thundering from the pulpit. But they take the Holby City/Casualty approach to the NHS, that doctors and nurses are saints while the managers are underqualified, bureaucratic box-tickers. It may be true but closer examination would have helped.

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