THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS
conceived by Russell Woodhead and Jack Lowe devised by Curious Directive.
Southwark Playhouse 77-85 Newington Causeway SE1 6BD To 16 July 2014.
Mon – Sat 11am, 1pm, 3pm, 5pm, 7pm, 9pm.
Runs 1 hr No interval.
TICKETS: 0207 407 0234.
Review: William Russell 7 July.
Revealing drive from dusk to dawn.
The action of this piece, created by Curious Directive, launched first at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, is set in an ambulance during the night shift. The audience, all five of them, are in the ambulance with Lisa, a paramedic on her first shift after completing training. Her driver is a cynical, middle-aged woman on her last shift before moving over to administration.
It is an engrossing, draining, yet rewarding experience as the older woman – a voice we hear through headphones – complains about what has happened to the National Health Service, while the younger one, beautifully played by Fiona Drummond, worries about what she will have to cope with during the long night ahead.
As an insight into a world we take for granted, that of people who do jobs we rely on but don’t want to do, it is impressive. The ambulance hurtles round the streets to each fresh crisis – the father who has collapsed with a heart attack while alone at home with his five year old daughter, clever enough to have rung for help; the boy who has had an embarrassing accident in the bathroom; the old woman suffering from dementia who has called, she doesn’t know why, but whose husband is dead in bed; the drunk who has been badly damaged by a bottle – and the audience is taken out singly to assist the young, scared paramedic.
On a sunlit morning this audience participation is dicey at times – being asked to shave a boy with a razor with no blades does not add to the realism – but the boundaries of what live theatre can do are certainly pushed back, and the chances are the after-dark performances work better.
One could arguably get the same insights from watching a documentary, with the film-makers confined to the ambulance instead of the audience. But this attempt to get to the heart of the argument about what we expect of the National Health Service and the people who keep it running is a triumphant piece of theatre.
Lisa: Fiona Drummond.
Ben: Gareth Taylor.
Other parts: Emiily Lloyd-Saini, Harry Williams, Russell Woodhead.
Director: Jack Lowe.
Sound: Jo Walker.
Video: Jasmine Robinson.
Composer: Adam Alston.
Motion Graphics: Jason Read.