Friday, 4 April 2014

This May Hurt A Bit @ Bolton Octagon, 01.04.14

The National Health Service, a subject close to many people’s hearts, is explored incisively in Stella Feehily’s powerful polemic play This May Hurt A Bit. From 1948 until the current day coalition-led “re-organisation” of the NHS, we are taken on a rollercoaster of a socio-historical journey, unexpectedly meeting significant political players who argue the case for the necessity of the NHS along the way.

The play, directed by Max Stafford-Clark, is deeply political, but at the same time highly entertaining with witty and sharp dialogue. The packed house roared with laughter at brilliantly realised patients, relatives and the NHS staff. We met doctors, paramedics, nursing staff and patients who are all trying to make sense of governmental policies, whilst making do with limited resources because of cuts and closures. Comparisons are made with the healthcare system of the United States, making us aware that this might be the way we are headed.
Iris (Stephanie Cole) is intelligent and humorous in dealing with Mariel, her oblivious Tory daughter, and Mariel’s obnoxious husband Hank (William Hope). The overworked struggling nurse Gina (Natalie Klamar) had dreamed all her life of working for the NHS, but the reality is a nightmare. Yet she does her best to tend to the sick patients, keep up their good spirits (as well as her own) and adhere to hospital protocol, rules and regulations.

The social conscience play is especially moving when we think on the state of the NHS today, and the ruthless management by the current and previous governments with their diabolical decisions to use Private Finance Initiative (PFI) that has created crippling debt. Arguments about austerity do not hold up when we think on how when the NHS was first established; the country was financially challenged, yet the welfare of the sick was given priority. We witness scathing criticism of the reforms and re-organisation that begin every time a new government arrives, yet there is no positive narrative behind their botched plans. Reorganisation is a diversion, not a solution.

Surreal and humorous moments in the play, with the unexpected appearance of famous figures, as well as personification of the NHS, are juxtaposed with the serious message we must all take home: The NHS has lost its way, and young and old must challenge the callous government to save it.

If you don’t catch it at Bolton Octagon, the play is touring, so go see it. Tour dates can be found on their website:

Words: Sadia Habib

Images: John Haynes

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