Where It Hurts @ Summerhall

Raw, honest personal experiences of NHS care.

Review by Deborah Klayman | 14 Aug 2018

Unlike most productions at the fringe, Where It Hurts is an authentic piece performed entirely by non-actors, directed – or perhaps curated – by Jeremy Weller. An examination of NHS care by a cast of both patients and staff, these raw and honest personal experiences remind us of just how vital our NHS is, and how close we are to it being lost.

Grassmarket Projects provide support and a platform for people to examine their own lived-experiences, working specifically with untrained performers to create work which explores positive social change. These are real people sharing their real stories, and that is incredibly powerful and affecting. As each of the cast bares their soul, speaking of addiction, mental ill health, the loss of loved ones and more, the audience is challenged to think of their own interactions and relationship with the health service. From cradle to grave there is always an open door if you need it. At least for now.

The story that runs throughout, and gives the piece shape, is that of Steven, a psychiatric nurse from an entire family of NHS staff. As he progresses through his ten years of service, he notices a shift in attitudes, including his own, which will be uncomfortably familiar to any who have worked in healthcare. Eventually suffering burnout and ending up admitted to the hospital he works in, Steven truly sees things from the other side. Sadly his story is not uncommon as high levels of burnout have been identified in 21-67% of mental health staff.

Although many of the stories are harrowing, particularly ones concerning physical abuse, lack of support for an eating disorder and the death of a child, there are grains of hope in Where It Hurts. In an impassioned speech that becomes a primal scream, Trisha urges “Mama NHS” to do more, to save herself, and to keep fighting for us, her children. It is stories like these that remind us all that we need to fight for her in return.

Where It Hurts, Summerhall (TechCube), 1-26 Aug (not 2, 6, 13, 20), 8.30pm, £12-£8

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