THIS MAY HURT A BIT
by Stella Feehily.
St James Theatre 12 Palace Street SW1E 5JA To 21 June 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu except 29 May, Sat and 27 May 2.30pm.
Runs: 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 264 2140. T.0844 264 21400844 264 2140
Review: Carole Woddis 16 May.
Dramatic diagnosis of our National Health.
It’s all too rare these days to get a theatre production that makes no bones about where its heart lies. Max Stafford Clark has never been afraid to run up his colours. – with Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Our Country’s Good, a paean to the healing power of theatre, or David Hare’s The Permanent Way, an excoriating denunciation of the privatisation of the railways. Now comes This May Hurt A Bit, every bit as outraged at the stealthy privatisation of our National Health and the way recent governments have laid waste to the promises of its founding father, Aneurin Bevan.
Indeed Bevan is a leading character in Stella Feehily’s darkly comic vision, that splices together in almost anarchic fashion, polemic with agit-prop and the surreally farcical – an approach previously successfully used more than forty-five years ago by Peter Nichols in The National Health.
Then the attack was on under-funding. Feehily’s assault isn’t just on under-funding but the amputation of the NHS as a living embodiment of the best of socialist principles: health care for all.
The Grim Reaper here isn’t just a metaphysical conceit. Like Bevan, and Winston Churchill, brought on to argue opposition to Bevan – the Reaper is produced, in order to predict the dire consequences of present government policy.
But it’s Bevan who has the best lines, with a fighting rhetoric sadly seldom heard on Westminster benches these. Essentially, This May Hurt A Bit is a testament, like The Permanent Way, to betrayal of our national legacies for profit.
Feehily also includes a family narrative through which she introduces the chaos that is now nursing care in the NHS. With Stephanie Cole as an amnesiac and a wonderful Tristram Wymark as a lubriciously affected stroke patient (could this be Stafford Clark in another time?), this is one of Feehily’s most affecting scenes, showing Natalie Klamar’s nurse run ragged by the impossible pressures imposed upon her.
Bevan and Cole, together they form an irresistible pact. If you want the NHS to continue, you, we, have got to fight for it. A wonderfully juicy rallying cry. Let’s hope it will be heeded.
Tabitha/Dinah/Bea/Dr Gray: Frances Ashman.
Iris: Stephanie Cole.
Hank/Miles/Sam/The Grim Reaper: William Hope.
Gina/Cassandra/Ally/Wendy: Natalie Klamar.
Aneurin Bevan/Danny/Terry/Archie: Hywel Morgan.
Nicholas/Prime Minister: Brian Protheroe.
Mariel/The NHS: Jane Wymark.
Winston Churchill/Mr Weaver/Roger/John: Tristram Wymark.
Director: Max Stafford-Clark.
Designer/Costume: Tim Shortall.
Lighting: Jason Taylor.
Sound: Andy Smith.
Choral Composer: Adam Pleeth.
Soundtrack Composer: Charlotte Hatherley.
Choreographer: Orian Michaeli.
Associate director: Tim Hoare.
Assistant director: Maureen A. Bryan.
World premiere of This May Hurt A Bit 6 March 2014 at the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds.
An Out of Joint and Octagon Theatre Bolton production.