Here’s a question for you, what organisation is the 5th largest in the world? Has four systems opening in the UK in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales? Was founded in 1948 by the then Labour Party? And last but not least promises free health care to all UK residents? If you haven’t guessed yet… It’s the one and only NHS!
Who Cares, written by Michael Wynne examines, questions and attempts to dissect the multiple faceted organisation that is the NHS. An organisation that relates to all of us living in the UK, we all have our very own tales of long waiting times, time allocated to see a GP and interactions with fellow staff, e.g. Receptionists, to name but a few, however that’s our very own perspectives. It may become very easy to forget that the NHS is comprised of various sectors and human beings, like us.
Set in promenade, Who Cares sets out to immerse the audience into the everyday experiences of patients, nurses, GPs and campaigners. A very timely piece of theatre adding its very own perspective on the very political minefield of health care, Who Cares unapologetically informs its audience on its opposition to health care becoming ever more politicised.
The waiting room set up at the show’s very beginnings contributes a novel, yet uncomfortable air of relateability. Clinical curtains, metallic chairs and those daunting double doors switch the audience’s attentions from the welcoming Royal Court Theatre, to a revolving microcosm of pressure, illness and constant decision making. Eileen O’Brien‘s Nurse invigorates the space with her sunny yet resilient disposition. A nurse who has witnessed the various changes of the NHS during her many decades of serving the organisation, she begins to humanise an otherwise faceless and corporate organisation. The ensemble work effortlessly together to engross the awaiting audience into a bubble of uncertainty.
No two experiences of the show are the same, as the group are split into four different groups, dependent on the colour of their patient badge. Throughout the evening, no matter the order, the audience are introduced to a paramedic, played brilliantly by Nathaniel Matello-White, expressing to the audience how class and status play a constant role in the hospital set, a cardiologist, played humorously by Martina Laird, who speaks of how ludicrous the introduction of certain medications have become, due to the price of the medication taking prominence over productivity. A former chief executive of health care, played authoritatively yet comedically by Paul Hickey reinforces the lack of the government’s knowledge on running a successful NHS.
One of the pivotal points of the evening is Elizabeth Berrington as a campaigner, An individual unjustly effected by the failure of a particular hospital to look after her ill mother, and forced to keep quiet. This voice is one of the most important throughout the evening as it sheds all of the political warfare away, showing that although it is of importance for the audience to be informed of medical terminology and facts and figures, it must be remembered that the NHS is an organisation set up to serve its residents.
Andrew D Edward‘s promenade set up of clinical waiting rooms, GPs consultations rooms and A&E signs immediately whisks the audience away to a world impatient patients and GPs, whilst Debbie Hannan, Lucy Morrisson and Hamish Pirie direct an ambitious, yet sometimes overwhelming piece of theatre. 3.5/5
Review written by Lucy Basaba.
Who Cares is currently showing at the Royal Court Theatre until Saturday 16th May. For more information on the production, visit here…