No Help Sent; an acronym for NHS, I realised in an ‘aha’ moment, aptly describes our imminent fate should our National Health Service be demolished. Writer Jack West draws worthy attention to the devastating government cuts by plunging us into the not so unforeseeable future, where everything we take for granted as a right, is taken away.
I must applaud the content, writer Jack West, and LAGO Theatre. The group of recently graduated LIPA boys take something politically urgent and place it in circumstances they can relate to: a university lad’s pad and the banterous relationship between a group of boys. What’s more extraordinary is the position they find themselves in, as Mike (Josh Quigley) returns home following an operation to remove his cancerous testicle. The boys express their concern with great sentimentality; providing a feast of testicle shaped foods, and are allowed a moment of normality before Mike drops the bomb that the Cancer has spread. With no NHS and having exhausted any fundraising, the boys find themselves powerless to help. Unable to accept this, John (Craig McDonald) resorts to desperate measures by kidnapping a doctor (Porl Matthews) outside the hospital in order to force him to carry out the life changing surgery in their apartment.
McDonald’s desperation is convincing and it is an interesting idea that he finds kidnapping as being a small price to pay for saving the life of his best friend; making us wonder what lengths we would go to in the same situation.
I felt that the writing, although naturally capturing the boys dialogue, could be stripped back. With the severity of Mike dying of cancer, there were times where it would have been more powerful just to see the toll it was taking through silences, rather than the constant dialogue. On occasion the funny one liners grappled with finding the right quality, and as a result some of the humour felt quite adolescent. At one point Matthews bursts in to the apartment to deliver a dramatic speech about the medical profession’s frustration over the changes. Though this needed to be said, the delivery felt overblown and as he left the boys in a state of incredulity, something clever was needed to break the atmosphere – the line “nice guy” felt too predictable and didn’t cut it.
The cast and Director Jack Brosnan’s shared drama school background is evident in their dynamics on stage. Yet at times they do playing on the comedy rather than the truth of the situation, but ultimately seem to find their stride during the performance. As a group of talented young men- I feel they will only get better during the run.
Overall No Help Sent is an ambitious piece from a new theatre company, and this shows but there are some aspects to iron out. The piece had a great central message which deserves to be heard and I believe the play definitely has a future. It is not a criticism to say that perhaps they should explore the notion of touring schools as it holds strong educational merit and would resound with young people. I wish them luck and with a bit of grafting think they are on to a great show.
No Help Sent is playing at the Etcetera until 2 April. For more information and tickets, see the Etcetera Theatre website.