NHSmackdown – Pleasance, London

Reviewer: Christine Stanton

Writer: Lawless aka Rich Tea

Director: Heather Bandenburg

If somebody told you that you’d one day watch David Cameron body slam an NHS nurse in the middle of a wrestling ring, while Nick Clegg fanned himself with £50 notes, you’d think you were hallucinating or having a extremely strange fever dream. Not so much clap for carers – more slap your carers, then hold them in a headlock while Covid-19 and the flu enter the ring to do some more damage. Part wrestling, part theatre NHSmackdown, playing as part of Wrestival, explores the frustrations shared by thousands of NHS workers across the country.

The concept of this show is fascinatingly unique. Lawless aka Rich Tea is a wrestler and NHS nurse, fed up with the long shifts, hard graft and minimal pay. While politicians raked in their annual bonuses, NHS workers were barely recognised, applauded instead of paid, part of a national staple being run into the ground. Using real stories and excerpts from a variety of NHS staff, a presentation is put together in the background of the wrestling ring, humanising the emotional stories that each of them have gone through. It’s an interesting and creative way to incorporate meaningful multi-media, and a welcome balance to the faster paced live action.

Lawless hosts the performance, recounting in person the daily struggle alongside the variety of NHS themed wrestling bouts. While the audience chant enthusiastically for Nurse Nigel (Man Like DeReiss) and boo passionately for the villains such as Covid (Big T) it creates an almost pantomime style atmosphere, amping up the performers to show off their best moves. With a bit more polishing on how the show structure could flow better and a tighter grasp on the interesting script that drives the performance, this could be an exciting breakthrough in cross-genre fringe theatre.

The NHS is part of the UK’s foundation – a much-loved organisation that has saved many lives along the way. With the fallout from Covid, the cost of living crisis and budget cuts to key services ,the message being put out by this show is an important one. Protect the NHS, don’t just stand on your doorstep and clap for the people risking their lives, fight for their struggle to make a difference.

Reviewed on 23 September 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Pantomime-style fever dream

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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