This is my review of This May Hurt A Bit (NHB Modern Plays) by Stella Feehily.
This very topical play is a savage indictment of the UK Coalition’s reorganisation of the NHS. To regular followers of the media, the main attacks will come as no surprise: costly, top-down, cynical sell-off of services without a mandate from voters, handing over to profiteering private, often foreign companies, failing to ensure that provision is adequate and worst of all, sacrificing the post-war vision of a free service based on need, unique and revolutionary in its day.
The drama pricks our consciences with an opening polemic from Nye Bevan, then moves on to a kind of “Yes Minister” scene, in which a Sir Humphry clone gives David Cameron the form of words to fob of criticism of the proposed Act.
It is soon clear that this play is a series of sketches, with surreal touches as when Nye Bevan and Churchill gatecrash a family reunion to argue over how best to manage a health service collapsing beneath the unforeseen demands of a rapidy ageing population, or when a budgie called “Maggie” begins to talk like Margaret Thatcher.
Requiring a high level of performance, this play is by turns funny and poignant, but the polemical stance is often heavy-handed. The criticism of PFIs is devastating, but in the main the assault is too earnest and didactic, rather than subtly dramatic. Despite the inclusion of a pro-reform consultant, and stereotyped Republican American medic and his English wife who only see the faults in the NHS, there is insufficient coverage of alternative points of view with arguments to counter them effectively.
The work seems likely to date quite fast.