At some point, all of us will find ourselves languishing in the waiting department of A&E, six hours and thirty coffees away from bellowing at some poor nurse. As a nation we seem perfectly comfortable with vociferously moaning about the NHS when we experience it, but at the same time a public shaving and flogging would await any politician brave enough to openly declare themselves pro-privatisation. Instead of a blunt approach, our government seems, to me a least, to be taking a more subtle and subversive approach toward making money out of sick people. It’s into this uncertain time of renegotiated junior doctor contracts and failing trusts that Accidents and Emergencies sets itself.
I must admit, when I first walked into the Lost Theatre to watch Accidents and Emergencies, my expectations were fairly low. A fringe musical about a hospital department? It sounded like the spawn of a drunken mistake between X Factor and Holby City. I have never been more pleased to admit how wrong I have been. This musical is touching, entertaining, amusing and thought provoking, all in one. It consists of four finely performed and penned shorts dealing with various different aspects of our NHS.
We’re taken from the humdrum of daily hospital life in Chris Bush and Matt Winkworth’s Death and Chocolate to the post-apocalyptic world of Jennifer Whyte’s Silent Night, through to the black comedy of Gus Gowland’s SICK! (my favourite) and Rebecca Applin’s melancholic Beyond. The four-hander cast – Daniel Hall, Sharon Ballard, Nadeem Crowe and Jenny Perry – all appear in at least two of the stories, and produce absolutely top-notch performances. Their acting, which I find can sometimes become secondary to the singing in musicals, is very emotive and all four are exceptional singers to boot. There wasn’t anything approaching a bum note throughout, and I was quite often left with that hair-raising-tingly feeling when they hit the high points of their songs. I was absolutely impressed with all four, and they should incredibly proud of their prodigious talent.
One of the reasons the cast were allowed to shine was the almost complete absence of set. To some productions this can be a detriment. However I didn’t really notice it in Accidents and Emergencies. It was a far cry from the multi-million pound frills of the West End, and I got the impression that it gave the actors nothing to hide behind, not that they needed anything. The music, performed live on stage by cellist Niccolò Curradi and a mystery pianist who for some reason is unmentioned in the programme, was utterly beautiful. I was also struck by how much Curradi and our musical John Doe seemed to be enjoying themselves. I glanced over to them a couple of times to find broad grins plastered on their faces. It’s nice to watch someone having fun doing something they’re good at.
The only downside I can see in regard to this production is the ticket price. A bit of forward planning, £19 and some google-fu can get you a ticket to a top musical nowadays, and with such a high entry price the production is putting itself in direct competition with some of the big boys around Piccadilly Circus. It’s a shame, and I worry that the show won’t get the full houses it deserves because of it. Mind you, if it means you might crack a grin next time you’ve been sat in A&E for six hours, it’s probably worth it.
Accidents and Emergencies is playing at the Lost Theatre until 21 November. For more information and tickets, see the Lost Theatre website.