Alleluja, Bridge London, 4****: William Russell



By Alan Bennett.

4 ****

The Bridge Theatre, Potter’s Field Park, London SE1 2SG to 29 September 2018.

Mon-Sat 7.45 pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm

Runs 2hr 30 mins One interval.

TICKETS: 0333 320 0052.

Review: William Russell 24 July

A state of the nation play to relish

In 1969 Peter Nicholls wrote a devastating state of the nation black comedy in the Carry On manner called the National Health. Allelujah is Alan Bennett’s state of the nation play also using the health services to give vent to his anger, despair and bitter amusement at the state of things not to come but that are. It is not his best play, but neither is it his worst and is better than most people’s best.

Set in hospital due for closure because it does not measure up to the tick box standards required these days although it does actually do a perfectly good job, it focuses on the inmates of the Dusty Springfield Ward and the geriatrics housed there. They are bed blockers all – which is to say they are old, infirm, but not really ill just in need of care, some of which would once upon a time have been provide in the family possibly by some hapless maiden daughter, but which today gets handed over to the state. The chairman of the hospital trust , intent on saving his hospital and his own reputation, has employed a TV crew to make a documentary showing how good it is. The patients are cared for by a young Asian doctor, played by Sacha Dhawan, whose qualifications to be here are possibly not as sound as they might be regardless of his perfectly sound medical skills, and in charge of thee is a kindly sister who cossets the old dears, dances with one old man who is not good at walking but can still waltz, and seems a Florence Nightingale personified.

Deborah Findlay is splendidly benevolent, but watch as just how she exercises that benevolence is revealed and what was once someone you would like to be nursed by becomes an angel of death. Watch also as the one really demented patient, an old lady whose only line is – “It was my house” – escapes incarceration. She is there because her son in law and daughter have put her house in their name to avoid death duties and are determined she must survive until the due date has passed and is not so much demented as plain outraged at what they have done.

It is contrived, packed with Bennettisms which some derided but which the inmates of the ward would know all about as at 85 he too is almost one of them. It is angry, it is often very funny, and a dazzling collection of senior actors create the inmates with skill as they sing and dance the songs from their past. They have been formed into a choir to keep them happy.

It may all be a little near the knuckle for some, but at least it is as well to be warned. In the end praise the lord, pass the ammunition, say hallelujah and relish an evening directed by Nicholas Hytner which is not only stimulating and provocative but also cries out angrily about the state of the world today.


Molly: Jacqueline Chan.

Mrs Maudsley: Jacqueline Clarke.

Mavis: Patricia England.

Mary: Julia Foster.

Arthur: Colin Haigh.

Renee: Anna Lindup.

Neville: Louis Mahoney.

Joe: Jeff Rawle.

Cora: Cleo Sylvestre.

Lucille: Gwen Taylor.

Hazel: Sue Wallace.

Ambrose: Simon Williams.


Dr Valentine: Sacha Dhawan.

Sister Gilchrist: Deborah Findlay.

Salter: Peter Forbes.

Ramesh: Manish Gandhi.

Gerald: Richie Hart.

Nurse Pinkney: Nadia Hughes.

Fletcher: Gary Wood.


Colin: Samuel Barnett.

Alex: Sam Bond.

Mrs Earnshaw: Rosie Ede.

Cliff: Nadine Higgins.

Andy: David Moorst.

Mr Earnshaw: Duncan Wishey.


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