All That Dazzles thanks the NHS for 75 years of service
By Raphael Kohn
The NHS is one of the greatest assets this country has, of course, on par with our fantastic theatre scene. Many of you will be aware that we have just reached 75 years of having the NHS, which is a remarkable milestone and one that should be celebrated. Healthcare that is free at the point of use is such a rarity in many countries, and we are fortunate to have it. I myself am hugely proud to play my small part in the NHS as a current medical student and future doctor.
Of course, it’s not without its issues, such as horrendous understaffing, staff burnout and underpayment – claps don’t pay the bills! But to thank the NHS, and every brilliant worker who keeps it going, All That Dazzles offers our tribute, in two parts: a shoutout to a fantastic charity that gives tickets away to NHS workers, and an exploration of medicine in theatre.
Part one: How To Get Cheap Theatre Tickets (as a NHS worker) Without Really Trying
NHS workers, how many of you are familiar with TicketsForGood? I hope all of you – if not, allow me to introduce you to this website. On TFG, you can get free or heavily discounted tickets to a multitude of different shows in London and beyond. Theatres offer up their remaining tickets on-the-day to fill their seats, or even shows which are in demand save a few seats for NHS workers as a social impact project – and we love it. We are so thankful to see these initiatives in action to thank NHS workers for all they do.
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing quite a few brilliant shows via TFG and they’ve been such a treat for me, as a medical student (yes, students are included!). I can’t recommend it enough to all NHS workers and students.
TFG offers tickets not just for theatre, but also for concerts and experiences across the country. It’s a fabulous service, and we at All That Dazzles love what they do!
Discover more about TicketsForGood at https://www.ticketsforgood.org.
Now that we’ve covered that (and I hope every NHS worker reading this has signed up), I want to explore where healthcare has intersected with theatre this year, and what that has meant to me.
Part two: The Theatre Of Medicine
You’d think it’s not the ideal subject for theatre, wouldn’t you? Often deeply challenging and emotionally affecting, medical ethics and healthcare isn’t the subject that might come to most people’s minds when it comes to booking theatre tickets. And yet, these subjects are incredibly prevalent on stage! So without further ado, allow me to explore some examples of healthcare on stage in 2023.
A Little Life
I’m sure you knew this was coming: a 4-hour gruelling marathon performance from its cast of nine follows James Norton’s Jude through his childhood and into adulthood as he deals with trauma, chronic pain and sexual assault. Often recurring is his pain and injuries, for which he returns to his doctor for treatment. More on the subject I won’t say, to keep this article from being too distressing, but suffice to say that it’s a deeply emotionally charged production led by James Norton’s powerhouse performance of a lifetime.
You can discover more about the A Little Life at https://alittlelifeplay.com.
Next To Normal
Coming to the Donmar Warehouse in 2023 is the UK premiere of Tom Kitt’s musical Next To Normal. Following Diana, a mother with bipolar disorder as she navigates her life through her condition, Next To Normal is a touching and meaningful, yet also uplifting, rock musical which won a tremendous amount of awards during its Broadway run. Its London run has been hugely anticipated, and in such an intimate theatre, directed by Michael Longhurst and with a cast including Cassie Levy, Trevor Dion Nicholas, Jamie Parker and Jack Wolfe, the hype is certainly on for this production. With the theme of the ethics of psychiatry permeating the musical as Diana goes through treatment after treatment, including electroconvulsive therapy, Next To Normal brings the hospital to the stage in a bold and daring way that will hopefully be a hit.
You can discover more about Next To Normal at https://booking.donmarwarehouse.com/events/next-to-normal.
Lucy Prebble’s play of two people falling in love while participating in a clinical trial of a new antidepressant was a hit in its first run in London in the National Theatre’s Cottesloe (now Dorfman) theatre. Returning to the National, but now in the Lyttleton theatre, starring Paapa Essiedu, and Taylor Russell and directed by Jamie Lloyd, The Effect covers matters of medical ethics, the importance of blinding and controls in clinical trials and, above all, the power of love. A true synthesis of theatrical art and medical storytelling, I for one am tremendously excited to be mesmerised by this later this year.
You can discover more about The Effect at https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/productions/the-effect/.
Every time you go to a hospital, I’m sure you see the staff around you washing their hands often to keep you and them safe from infection where possible. But how did this even start? Meet Dr Ignaz Semmelweis, a man considered the pioneer of hand hygiene in pregnancy wards. Bristol Old Vic’s production starring Mark Rylance was a hit during its Bristol run and its highly-anticipated West End run at the Harold Pinter theatre is bound for success. Exploring a critical moment in medical history with one of the UK’s greatest actors, Dr Semmellweis is certainly one not to let slip through your fingers as its run only lasts until October.
You can discover more about Dr Semellweis at https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/productions/dr-semmelweis/
The Wind And The Rain
Less medical and more explorative of the people behind medicine, this play from the earlier half of the 20th century receives its first professional London production in 80 years at the intimate and high-quality Finborough Theatre. Its original run in the West End lasted for over 1000 performances in the St Martins, Queens and Savoy Theatres to great success. Following a medical student at Edinburgh Medical School as he becomes conflicted between a career in medicine or a career in the arts, The Wind And The Rain is arguably an autobiographical work, inspired by its bisexual playwright’s life. As myself a queer medical student who adores the arts, I can’t wait to see this next week.
You can discover more about The Wind And The Rain at https://finboroughtheatre.co.uk/production/the-wind-and-the-rain/.
The debut opera of Muelas+Ward, A&E follows Adam and Eve as they meet in A&E in Homerton Hospital, London. Forming part of the Arcola’s acclaimed Grimeborn festival, A&E only runs for a few performances but those few are set to be very special for fans of theatre, opera and NHS workers themselves. Combining themes of love, healthcare and set to a critically acclaimed score, this should be a high-priority booking.
You can discover more about A&E at https://www.arcolatheatre.com/whats-on/ae/.
In Other Words
I know Alzheimer’s can be a difficult topic for many, as many of us know someone affected by this illness. In Other Words finds the joy in connection, through the music of Frank Sinatra, and presents a moving love story that returns to London. It is set to be an emotionally touching, but deeply felt, presentation of Alzheimer’s, and I for one am very excited to be seeing it later this year.
You can discover more about In Other Words at https://www.arcolatheatre.com/whats-on/in-other-words/.
And there we have it – some fantastic examples of medical themes in theatrical storytelling, as well as how to get affordable tickets for NHS workers! I’ll finish with two words to all the people who keep our NHS going despite the government’s disrespect, and insulting real-terms pay cuts the government inflicts on them: Thank You.