Stella Feehilys new production of This May Hurt A Bit portrays an unabashedly pro NHS story in a witty and comical way. This is a creative production with the use of digital media, flashbacks, songs, dances, audience interruptions, weather forecasts and flashbacks featuring Winston Churchill and Aneurin Bevan which creates intrigue and variety throughout this production.
This May Hurt a Bit follows the story of a family’s interaction with their understaffed local NHS hospital. The action takes place in Harrington Hospital where there are numerous IT problems, blood on the wall and dead patients “left waiting around for hours”. This sets the scene for where we join the action and where the NHS is currently sitting but we see the zest and fight needed to save ‘our’ NHS in Stephanie Coles wonderful portrayal of Iris James.
Cole’s natural ease takes this from what could potentially be caricature to a sensitive, emotional and hard hitting drama with some very funny moments. Cole’s comedy timing is wonderful and she never misses a beat – to be quite frank she is a joy and delight to watch and there’s something very human and humble in her performance that has us, as the audience, as putty in her hands.
Brian Protheroe who plays Cole’s son Nicholas, and has experiences of his own with the NHS throughout the play, brings a grounded and warm performance providing a ‘level headed’ approach to service and care within the NHS.
His sister Mariel, played by Jane Wymark brings a slightly less convincing performance as the antagonistic and slightly neurotic daughter and sister. Her American Husband Doctor Hank played by William Hope performs with gusto and conviction and brings a light hearted moment as The Grim Reaper (intrigued??).
Through these two characters, we are provided with a two sided argument, although we have very little sympathy with the couple as they just seem to throw money at every situation in a rather egotistical and a ‘we know best’ kind of way which makes them unattractive to the audience.
Max Stafford Clarke as Director has made some interesting creative decisions and makes very good use of the space. This piece has been directed very well, there’s just the right level of comedy and story with a strong cast supporting Staffords vision.
Although entertaining, funny and enjoyable this production is preaching to the audience, a lot of whom I think were converted. We were given the message to fight for the NHS and that the people need to stand up and be counted but it doesn’t particularly provide any solutions or suggestions on how to improve the dire situation we are in.
If you want an evening of enjoyable theatre with wonderful performances and something that’s a little different, then you should book your ‘check up’ at St James, Victoria.