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Mar 2024

Review from YourHarlow:

AFTER about ten minutes, this reviewer was starting to think he was watching a Harlow Theatre Van production from 1980. All radical politics and the country falling apart (luckily those days are gone eh readers).

After the interval, we thought that Harlow MP Robert Halfon (Cons) might want to have a word with the director and say: “You know, in an election year, you are not really helping”.


And there was something very zeitgeist about a play on the NHS in a theatre in Old Harlow, just a mile or so from the proposed new hospital. That is the new hospital set for 2024, 2026,2028, 2030 etc.


Stella Feehily’s play explores one family’s journey through the system of the NHS. It was set in 2014 but it could have been 1984 or 2024.


It was in the second half, that the play really took off and that was mainly due to a tour de force by Michelle Brisa-Jimenez as Gina the nurse. You feel the nurse was a symbol of the NHS. Teetering on the edge. A lot of Michelle’s acting is in her eyes. You could have cried for her.


And that is the strength of Harlow Theatre Company. There are always moments from actors that just light up the theatre. Barry Bowen was a very solid Aneurin Bevan at the start and a cynical consultant in the middle but his portrayal of Reverend John was so impressive. So heartbreaking.


The first half set the scene with a Prime Minister (Clive Weatherley) wondering how he can spin NHS cuts. By the end, they decide to blame everyone but themselves. Yes, we know…..


We follow Nicholas (Kevin Smith) as he deals firstly with his prostate and then with his mothers’s illness. This was another vital anchor role by Kevin, portraying the everyman caught up in the chaos of the health service.


Similarly, his sister, played by Wendy Eveson, was excellent as the hard hearted devotee of private medicine, seeing first hand the chaos in a mixed sex ward at the local hospital.


Again, what we liked is that in a play with nearly every actor playing multiple roles. Some were solid in some and then burst into life in a particular role. Doug Thomas was wonderfully oleaginous as US orthopaedic surgeon, Hank. Stuart Coombe was a wonderfully cheery Archie, the porter.


Kate Harris was absolutely wonderful as the elderly Iris James. She was such a philosophical presence and played the key moments so well.


This was one of those plays, that you wanted to watch again. Sometimes a critic can do that with film and music. Let me have another go. In many ways, that is testament to Jane Miles direction. There was so much to taken in. There was musical numbers, there was graphs, there was acroynms from PFI to CCG.


But at the heart of it was the 76-year-old NHS. On life support. In fact, there is a scene where the very versatile Helga Dove plays such a role.


Well done to the production team. This was not an easy one to put onto the stage but Jane Miles and her team produced a captivating and thought provoking two hours. In many ways, it would have been fascinating to see how much hard work went on behind the scenes. From lighting, choreography and set design.


There may have been people who had the budget on TV all day or who go to the theatre for a bit of escapism. However, the great strength of all the theatre groups in Harlow is that they produce a huge variety of work.


The fact that we can go from The Show Must Go by HATS to This May Hurt A Bit to Time Tours by MHP Theatre in a week says something about the strength and variety in Harlow.


We really recommend this. Go and see it. Laugh, cry, have a think. Just as Lord Reith wanted: Be educated, entertained and informed.

Cast List

Barry Bowen
Clive Weatherley
Helga Dove
Kevin Smith
Carrie-Lee Stevens
Stuart Coombe
Doug Thomas
Michelle Jimenez-Brisa
Kate Harris
Wendy Everson
Kathleen Hodis
Katie Fisher and
John Cant

Production Team

Director - Jane Miles

Lighting Design - Andy Pegram

Sound Design - Dan Ricketts

Costume Design - Jess Ricketts

Stage Manager - Sam Stevens

Set Design and Realisation - Brett Stevens, Stephen Dove,

Sam Stevens, Ryan Quickenden

Props - Katherine Wood

Lighting Operator - Claire Klyn

Sound Operator - Dan Ricketts

Publicity - Maria Hughes

Publicity Design - Paul Johnson


Acknowledgements: We would like to thank our sponsors for their support throughout 2024. 

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