This May Hurt a Bit

I went  to see an interesting play, This May Hurt a Bit, about the NHS in Bolton three weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It is mostly about the politics of the NHS in England. I especially enjoyed the appearances of Nye Bevan, Winston Churchill and the Grim Reaper.  It’s on at the St James Theatre in London from 14 May – 21 June 2014

The producers, Out of Joint,  have kindly sent me a copy of the script.  There are 26 characters.  They produce it with a cast of 8, doubling up.  The set isn’t complicated.  It would be perfectly possible for amateurs to produce.

The play starts with Nye Bevan’s speech on the appointed day and moves quickly forward to 2011 where David Cameron is looking through the Health and Social Care Bill, which he confesses not to have read, and being briefed by Sir Humphrey.  From there we go to hospital where a surgeon is examining Nicholas’s prostrate gland, and then to outpatients.  The hospital is clearly struggling and Cassandra, a woman all too reminiscent of many NHS campaigners I have met, bursts out of the audience talking about the trade treaty which will enable US companies to take over our public services.

In the next scene a 65 year old confused lady turns out to be the NHS, hooked up to a life support machine, who explains the difficult relationships she has had with a series of Prime Ministers.

Stephanie Cole
Stephanie Cole

Nicholas’s sister turns out to be married to an American surgeon, called Hank, who is an advocate of commercial medicine, but his mother Iris  (played by the wonderful Stephanie Cole) is a powerful, if surprisingly foul mouthed, advocate for the NHS.  The family dinner party is interrupted from the audience by the interventions of Winston Churchill, and Bevan.  Their political argument is then interrupted by a lesson on the Private Finance Initiative.

Subsequently Iris has a fall which causes her to lose her memory and believe herself to be in the 1970s. Transient Global Amnesia, it’s described as, which to my surprise is a genuine diagnosis. The visiting paramedics have more words of political wisdom about the futility of changing structures.  So does the lady from the weather centre, who tells us about hospital closures.  The hospital ward is pretty chaotic. So is the Board of Directors.  But Iris continues to defend the NHS against Hank, who wants to send her to a private hospital.