After the Cuts @ Summerhall
A couple are forced to make drastic decisions in a post-NHS future, as told by playwright Gary McNair
The death of something as profoundly enormous as the NHS likely won’t come with a single blow, but with a thousand tiny cuts. A piecemeal selloff here, a private contract there, and it’s gone before you noticed what was happening. In playwright Gary McNair’s After the Cuts, set in 2042, this is precisely what has happened, and when Glaswegian former mechanic Jim (George Docherty) discovers his wife Agnes (Pauline Knowles) has developed terminal cancer not covered by the couple’s insurance, he is forced to explore alternative options. When Jim talks about how good he is at fixing things, taking them apart and putting them together, you begin to get a sense of where this is going, and you are 100% correct.
Director Beth Morton stages a polished production, anchored by a beautifully realised relationship and layered by an ambient, electronic score by Frightened Rabbit’s Simon Liddell. She really couldn’t have asked for a more appropriate venue than the Demonstration Room at Summerhall, where veterinary students of years past witnessed animal dissections and operations (Jim starts small, let’s put it that way). The room is transformed into a lived-in, clinging-on-by-your-fingernails Glasgow flat, its history communicated simply by a tea-stained sofa and knackered cabinet.
Little details like this, like the way Agnes can instantly fire off her dozen-digit insurance number when asked, like her shock at the Blue Riband bar Jim procures as a treat, all serve to efficiently put the picture together. Later on McNair can’t resist being a little less subtle – as the couple curse the men and women in Westminster who have put them in this position and the apathy of the population who let them – but honestly, in this instance, fuck subtlety. This is something to get angry about. Go ahead and be angry.
After the Cuts, Summerhall (Demonstration Room), 1-26 Aug (not 6, 13, 20), 12pm, £13-15
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