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Theatre Review ‘The nearest thing English people have to a religion’

SUSAN DARLINGTON recommends a cautionary tale marking the 70th anniversary of the NHS

Get Well Soon
Wetherby Whaler, Guiseley/Touring

“WHAT'S the NHS ever done for us?” asks a character at the start of Get Well Soon.

The answer, referencing Monty Python’s sketch about the Romans, is everything from heart transplants, test-tube babies, Aids awareness campaigns and a slot at the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony.

That roll call of achievements is celebrated in Ged Cooper’s cautionary tale for Mikron Theatre, coinciding with the service’s 70th anniversary. Whether it will survive to see its next milestone birthday is never far from the surface of this gently comedic yet pointed piece of theatre with music.

It follows the (d)evolution of healthcare provision through the eyes of three generations of one family — Brian, who’s proud to be one of the first NHS babies, Simon, an overworked and jargon-riddled NHS manager and his daughter Daisy, critical of the NHS after her mother died of cancer.

And there's Polish district nurse Danuta, who brings homespun proverbs and an outsider’s perspective to the state of the service, especially when Kindly Care terminates her contract.

The family drama is interspersed with speeches from Nye Bevan, advertising skits for “manly cigarettes” and gruesome reminders of early healthcare involving Stone Age trepanning.

The message is unsubtle, particularly in the music hall songs, but the use of a bell telegraphing comic punchlines is an acknowledgement that the show risks preaching to the converted.

The strong performances, with Mikron stalwart James McLean and Rosamund Hine deserving special mention, nonetheless help lend the show its energy.

They also instil in the audience a renewed faith and pride in a service that Nigel Lawson once described as “the nearest thing English people have to a religion.”

Tours until September 1, details:


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