The Language of Kindness is first and foremost a celebration of our NHS nurses. Performed at Shoreditch Town Hall, it is designed as a beautiful love letter to the hearts and souls who save lives on a day-to-day basis. The Language of Kindness is based on Christie Watson’s memoir of her life as nurse and was adapted for the stage by Sasha Milavic Davies and James Yeatman.
“I am Florence Nightingale” are the first words spoken in the momentous show that is about to play out in front of our eyes. A midwife/nurse-to-be has just helped deliver her first baby. She is brimming with excitement and invites us to share her proudest moment as she celebrates this achievement with her friends (on a Tuesday night of course).
Hers is one of the many stories we get to see as we move through the paediatric ward, A&E, the hospice, and many more. On the way, we meet many different superheroes in all kinds of costumes – a nurse on her first day at the children’s ward as she quickly has to learn what being a nurse actually means, scrub nurses in the OR, and a paediatric nurse who has an encounter with the mother of one of the babies.
The Language of Kindness includes an amicable set (Zoë Hurwitz) and sound design (Gareth Fry). Behind a large hospital curtains are the props hidden which will take the shape of projector screen, operation tables, incubators, and whiteboards. Masks, aprons, face shields, and caps do the rest. Halfway through the show I get the feeling that I now actually know what is going on behind the doors of our imaginary hospital – I know how to make the beds, I know of the friendship that can develop between a nurse and a patient, and I know what it feels like to lose a patient. And before this sentiment hits me – before The Language of Kindness opens up about the overwhelmingly tragic and powerful reality of what it means to be a nurse – I realise that dance can’t solve everything, but it can solve most things.
Davies’ and Yeatman’s play is a vibrant and lively exploration of the daily life of our NHS nurses. It includes catchy dance intervals, a clever stage design, and the hundreds of faces that make the NHS what it is. As we get more and more into the nitty gritty, the performance becomes more dramatic and moving. Towards the end I am left with goosebumps and awareness of the toll that being a nurse can have on the mental health and general well-being.
The Language of Kindness is an appeal to become aware of the super-human work nurses achieve every day, and the lack of financial and mental support they encounter. And even though, The Language of Kindness was intended as an upbeat and appreciative performance before COVID-19 lead to a redesign of the performance, it does leave me with a lump in my throat. It only goes to say: A “tiny thing done with great love – that is nursing”.
The Language of Kindness is playing at the Shoreditch Town Hall until 12 June 2021. For more information and tickets visit Shoreditch Town Hall online.