“You’re new, aren’t you?
You’re still worrying about people dying.”
17 January 2015
live stream from Hampstead Theatre, London
by Nina Raine
Cast: Ruth Everett, Souad Faress, Jenny Galloway, Nick Hendrix, Maxwell Hutcheon, Tricia Kelly, Alastair Mackenzie, Wunmi Mosaku, Shaun Parkes, Luke Thompson, Indira Varma
Directed by Nina Raine
Summary: December is the busiest time of year for London’s hospitals. For one particular team it’s business as usual, even with the seasonal upsurge. Brian, the urology consultant, is audaciously trying to convince his superior, Mr Leffe, to swap irksome patients. Newcomer Emily has already discharged 5 people and it’s not even 10am. Her boyfriend James, a dishy doctor, is as usual engaged in charming his superiors – not to mention the eye-catching Rebecca. Feisty senior house officer Mark is wrestling with his bossy mentor Vashti to allow him to be more hands-on. And throughout it all, John, the cardiology registrar, simply can’t find a minute in the day to enjoy his roast turkey sandwich.
This is the second time I’ve watched a Hampstead Theatre live stream, and I very much appreciate them doing this. I can’t wait to visit there in person for the first time next month.
The play focuses on the staff of a typical hospital, with all their trials, tribulations and disillusionment. There is urology registrar Vashti, who at first seems a controlling and overbearing perfectionist who doesn’t get on with the other doctors and nurses, because she comes across as cold and heartless, but it’s all ultimately only an act of self-preservation. There is Emily, a 24 year old newbie to the A&E, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the beginning, but soon finding out that she can’t have her emotions rule her decisions and that it’s better not to care too much about the patients that come through the A&E on a daily basis. Emily’s boyfried also works as a doctor in the same hospital, and what at first seemed like a perfect situation soon deteriorates as they both try to find a balance between work and private life. And then there’s John, another doctor that has a medical problem of his own to deal with, while being there for his patients, and Mark, who thinks he’s being bullied by Vashti.
Indira Verma is superb as the seemingly sexless and driven surgeon who is struggling to be taken seriously in a male-dominated work environment. Ruth Everett’s Emily is equally great and nuanced, as are all the other members of the cast, many of whom play various parts throughout the play.
I am not that familiar with the inner workings of the NHS, but from what I know about the health system in my country – which is quite similar to the one in the UK – I fear we might be getting a very accurate picture of the goings-on in an average hospital A&E. There are shortages of staff, bureaucracy, sexism in the workplace, inflated egos, long working hours, about a hundred decisions a minute to be made, faulty and dated equipment, the list goes on and on. But despite all these shortcomings, the NHS is not doomed yet, and admitting that you have a problem is the first step in overcoming that problem.
Here are a few tweets made by Hampstead Theatre during the screening that I thought you might find interesting:
- ‘I called it
#TigerCountry because that’s a surgical reference to a dangerous place in the body to cut..’ Nina Raine #TigerCountryFreeStream
- Indira Varma’s character, Vashti, is based on Consultant Urological Surgeon Jyoti Shah who Nina Raine shadowed
- ‘The play is really about how terrible and how wonderful the NHS can be, simultaneously’ Nina Raine
- The largest employers in the world in order are: US Department of Defence, Chinese Army, Walmart, McDonald’s and NHS
- The NHS is the world’s largest publicly funded health service
- The NHS deals with over 1 million patients every 36 hours
- The equipment came from various places including the basement of Ealing Hospital and a medical auction