Laugh - you could have died
Folly on a trolley? Now is confusion worse confounded in the Swan Theatre Amateur Company's production of the John Chapman farce, Nil By Mouth.
Nil By Mouth
Swan Theatre Amateur Company
Swan Theatre ,
THERE’S a nice
line in the programme. It gives the cast “(in order of non-appearance)”
and features only Mr Whittaker. We don’t see Mr Whittaker until the
final curtain, by which time we have heard him scream intermittently to
ear-piercing effect, in the offstage hands of Ian Mason.
Meanwhile, for the
first few minutes of the onstage action, I was convinced that John
Chapman’s hospital farce was not really worthy of the hard-working cast
in Tim Crow’s production. Fortunately, it quickly catches up with our
hopes, with idiosyncratic patients and noisy, bustling staff ensuring
that we have the fun that we always expect from Mr Chapman.
Just don’t let anybody leave you to the mercies
of St Christopher’s Hospital, somewhere in London, when it’s a Saturday
afternoon with a shortage of staff and a mix-up of patients’ armbands.
At St Christopher’s, every ward is named after a
poet – which is why a patient named Keats does not exactly stem the
incipient possibilities of confusion in Wordsworth ward. The patient is
Evelyn Keats – anxious, noisy and suffering from early Alzheimer’s. She
is the responsibility of Michelle Whitfield, who rises admirably to the
challenges she presents.
Among the staff with the misfortune to be looking
after her are Sister Roughton (Jennie Davies), a maelstrom of bustling
authority, Sister Downing (Susan Smith), Nurse Dolores (Saada Westbury)
and a chipper Antipodean half-pint called Nurse Pamela (Jess Hirst).
Chris Read is the ever-brisk Dr Chandler, seemingly the only doctor on
duty. Together, this is a team that displays efficiency in the face of
Evelyn’s husband is Hilary Keats, who adds
initial confusion by being a doctor, but a doctor of divinity. He is
played by Andy Brown and here we have the stand-out character, a
memorable cross between actor Derek Nimmo and the former scientific
television personality Magnus Pyke – prone to walk with one shoulder
seemingly ahead of the other and revelling in a highly individual
delivery that sounds like a talkative yawn. This is a joyful
performance, featuring having his head banged by a door, causing his
resultant belief that he has tried conclusions with a goalpost while
Malc Williams provides a highly vocal patient,
William Graham, who leaps to the forefront of our awareness late on, to
Andrew Whittle turns up as the man from the
ministry on a mission of inspection in a ward that is rife with
misunderstandings and prone to reap the harvest that results.
Fiona Thomas, Jason Moseley and Alan Wollaston
put noble shoulders to the wheel of St Christopher confusion.
It may not do much to restore our faith in the
NHS, but it does provide laughter, the best medicine.