‘Stitched Up’ is a topical play tackling relevant subject matter at a time when the NHS is dominating the headlines.
As I collect my ticket at the usually quiet Riverside theatre in Coleraine it is clear from the number of people in the foyer the satirical drama by Northern Irish playwright Rosemary Jenkinson has caught people’s attention. A recognisable face from BBC’s drama ‘The Fall’ is no doubt giving ticket sales a helping hand as Richard Clements plays Aidan, a disgraced surgeon in the touring production.
As the show starts the reassuring beep of a life support machine can be heard throughout the dark auditorium and as the lights slowly build a surgeon can be seen at work through a dimly lit gauze. The stillness of the operating room is established and creates a stark contrast to the, at times, manic action of the following 75 minutes.
Clements plays a surgeon facing unwanted media attention after leaving a pair of scissors in a patient during a rushed surgery. Meanwhile his wife Kate, played by Roisin Gallagher, is distracted by the success of her campaign to demolish Belfast’s infamous peace walls. Repercussions occur when the introduction of a third character lying on the couple’s kitchen table, ”like a Sunday Roast” forces Aidan to make a split second life or death decision.
Making his directorial début for C21 Theatre Company, http://c21theatrecompany.com Stephen Kelly’s style is considered, as staging and technical nuances compliment elements of the script in conveying current pressures faced by NHS staff. At one point the disgraced surgeon stands at the front of the stage facing the media backlash and fielding questions thrown at him from recorded voice-overs playing through speakers in the auditorium. All of a sudden the audience are no longer bystanders as they become the faces of the public putting the doctor on trial.
The play invites the audience to question the staged elements, the truths, and the fictions behind the portrayal of current issues in contemporary society as the couple’s individual experiences challenge Kate’s belief that, ”All publicity is good publicity.”
‘Stitched Up’ certainly gets a few chuckles but a slight dependency on the use of bad language for easy laughs may offend some audience members.