Thursday, 10 April 2014

This May Hurt A Bit

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars
It's a strange sensation, hearing an actor open Max Stafford-Clark's 
production of Stella Feehily's impassioned call to arms to save the NHS 
with Socialist firebrand Aneurin Bevan's speech that launched this most 
treasured of institutions in 1948. A politician with ideals and 
integrity is such a rarity these days that it can't help but sound 
heroic. This is the case too watching a piece of political agit-prop, a 
form which not that long ago was considered to be passe, but which now 
appears to have been reborn for the age of austerity with a vigorous 
sense of righteous urgency.

This is with good cause, as Feelihy proves in the play's central tale 
of one family's travails after their 90 year old mother Iris has a 
stroke. A sadly familiar story of over-crowded and understaffed 
hospital wards is punctuated by a series of sketch-like interludes, as 
Bevan and Winston Churchill step out of the audience to form a double 
act, and a weather girl points out exactly where all the health cuts 
have been made. Even Death himself makes a cameo.

Drawn from extensive interviews with hospital patients and staff as 
well as first-hand experience, Feelihy, Stafford-Clark and an 
eight-strong cast led by Stephanie Cole as Iris have produced a damning 
indictment of a government that puts corporate interests before saving 
lives that is both funny and full of bemused rage. When one character 
steps out to ask the audience “Why aren't people angry?”, the silence 
may be deafening, but the way Westminster's current occupants are 
going, it won't be that way for long.

The Herald, April 10th 2014

ends

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