Do They Really Care About Us?
Star rating: *****
Watford Palace Theatre
20 Clarendon Road
Watford WD17 1JZ
A Tangled Feet and Watford Palace Theatre production
20th – 28th June 2015
Press Night review – Tuesday 23rd June 2015
Over-worked doctors stitch together broken threads, patients grasp at the uncertainty of their future and cleaners try to wash all the politics away.
Through it all it is the caring, comic and continuous efforts of the workforce that will keep it going. As the future of the NHS hangs in the balance how do we keep going? How do we value one of the greatest achievements our country has ever made? How do we pay for an ageing population? How do we value care?
Step inside a completely re-configured auditorium and be swept away as renowned creative maestros Tangled Feet turn the theatre into a hospital: where doctors fly and nurses dance, where you’ll find yourself in the waiting room one minute and the operating theatre the next. Care is a visually stunning piece of political, aerial and thought provoking theatre: a blend of touching storylines and dynamic movement with a beautiful musical underscore.
Co-Directors – Nathan Curry and Kat Joyce
Production Manager – Matt Ledbury
Tiemo Talk of the Town review
Burns, fractures, headaches and emergency casualties were just some of the medical emergencies being tackled on a busy night at the temporary operating theatre set up in Watford Palace Theatre. That was only half the story though for as well as tackling medical crises, the night shift also had to contend with financial management issues, dealing with numerous phone calls from patients requesting to see a Doctor and staff with the thankless task of trying to prioritise these calls. ‘Care’ was in effect a theatre within a theatre.
Produced by Tangled Feet, ‘Care’ was admirably never a tangled mess as it set about tackling all these competing and urgent priorities.
The line from one consultant that, ”It’s been 5 weeks since I’ve seen a patient” was poignant in highlighting how he had been taken away from his core role and function of treating patients to instead work on budgets and drafting tenders to get the funding so that he and his colleagues can actually focus on their main job.
I enjoyed watching the clever way in which these quite complex themes were played out aerially via actors being suspended from wires and flying around the stage, spinning upside down and round and round, as their physical contortions and gymnastics dramatically mirrored the turbulent times they were going through working in the NHS.
It was fascinating to see how all this took it’s toll on the medical staff too as a couple of them fell ill – drumming home the message of an NHS in crisis, that was not just of concern to patients, but was now affecting staff health too. The stresses on them were clear to see, for instance as they dealt with bed shortages and emergency’s going on around them demanding beds be made available.
Whilst the play didn’t necessarily provide answers to the difficulties facing the NHS, it was clear where it felt some of the blame lay for it’s woes e.g. medical recruitment agencies were portrayed as parasitic vultures bleeding it dry of money. A clear reference to the exorbitant fees some of them charge for medical locums and nurses.
The blurb for the play describes the NHS as being up for sale. As far as I know it isn’t, but I acknowledge that as a charge some parties laid against the Conservative party in the build up to last month’s general election.
Is privatisation such a bad thing though? Creative thinking is required to dig the NHS out of the financial mess it finds itself mired in. It’s also required to tackle it’s recruitment issues. The £110bn a year it receives each year should be more than enough to get by on, but why does it always appear to be insufficient? Where is the evidence that privatisation will result in a worse service? Amazon, Apple and Sainsbury’s, to name but three private companies are all doing very well, so you can’t simply say that the private will be bad for health and therefore the public sector is better.
Why can’t the NHS learn from and adopt the best practices from the most successful and profitable private companies? Even if the NHS doesn’t go down the privatisation route, what about looking at sponsored wards, hospitals etc… i.e. permitting advertising in wards and throughout hospitals? Think of the number of visitors per year to hospitals and GP surgeries. It could work. Perhaps it’s a matter of putting more emphasis on prevention rather than cure. As Steve Pound, MP for Ealing North, rather cleverly put it in one of Tiemo’s general election 2015 debates, what we really have now is a National Ill-Health Service, rather than National Health Service.
‘Care’ is physical theatre at it’s very best, in a format I have never seen before in a straight acting production. The attention to detail was brilliant – right from the welcome into the theatre that gave the impression you were walking through a hospital, to the audience’s departure. The cast engaged well with the patients, sorry audience, throughout the show.
At just over an hour’s duration Care is a brilliant piece of physical theatre, full of wit, drama, humour and vibrancy, whilst managing to cover many of the vital issues facing the NHS in a serious, yet entertaining manner. In a small way, it was a bit like the NHS, juggling many balls and competing priorities – being dramatic, entertaining, serious, welcoming, whilst working to time limitations in which to complete their operation/performance allied to coping with restricted audience capacity issues.
It makes you think. Who cares about the future of the NHS and how it is resourced? I think we all do. Patients, staff, politicians, the general public who may one day be patients of the NHS or know people who are patients. Perhaps the message is that when it comes to creative solutions, it is getting closer to the time when politicians have to consider the seemingly unthinkable and privatise the NHS.
Some might say the NHS is too big to fail and the government has to keep pumping money into it, but how long is that going to be sustainable for without a negative knock on effect on other public sectors such as education, defence and transport for instance.
Review © Tiemo Talk of the Town Care is being dispensed twice daily at Watford Palace Theatre between 20th – 28th June 2015.
Prescriptions are £12.50 and can be booked on-line or via the Box office: 01923 225 671
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