(reviewed at the Palace Theatre, Watford on 24 June)
We all know that the National Health Service, that cornerstone of British well-being since the end of the Second World War, is in crisis. What to do about it seems to be up to the politicians and the financiers with the views and experiences of its practitioners and patients apparently taken into rather less account.
Hence Care, the latest Tangled Feet production, which is part of Watford Big Festival and has taken over the Palace Theatre’s backstage and stage for both the show and its audience. We become waiters in a hospital’s out-patient department, sitting quietly on uncomfortable chairs until something happens.
The story itself has three main characters – research surgeon Dr Papadopoulos (Mario Christofides), staff nurse Harry (Leon Smith) and over-worked, over-stretched cleaner Rita (Fiona Watson). As their individual dramas play out amid much shifting of hospital screens and beds (the design concept is by Naomi Dawson with direction by Nathan Curry and Kat Joyce) the action takes in acrobatics and an element of surrealism.
We learn that Rita suffers from blinding headaches which no-one takes seriously until it’s too late. Harry is frustrated by staffing shortfalls and overlong shifts. Papdopoulos is increasingly involved in balancing the books (as management demands) while trying to do the best by his patients and research requirements. An outside financial consultant, wished on him by the men in grey suits rather than those in surgical overalls, simply complicates his life.
Cristina Catalina and Gemma Creasey complete the main cast with a hard-working state management team handling the aerial sequences and projections. There are some clever lighting effects by Katherine Williams but the weight of the story remains withits human protagonists. “Patients are not a commodity” states one airborne character, literally spinning herself into knots as she twists and turns on a rope. But is that true any more?
Care runs at the Palace Theatre, Watford until 28 June.