Read a newspaper any day of the week and one is confronted by the budget cuts to NHS and at the other end of the spectrum, the “lack” of care given by those on the frontline. Directed by Simon Nader, Stephanie Silver’s The Monologues of a Tired Nurse gives a frank account of those ‘coping’ (or not) at understaffed hospitals. Makenna Guyler plays Emily, a newly qualified nurse –full of hope and vigour – while her experienced mentor Sally (Silver) has seen too much to look at her vocation with rose-tinted glasses.
To say Sally is candid would be an understatement. The first to admit she ‘should have’ chosen a different career, Sally wants Emily to ‘toughen up’ so that the bad times (which will eventually come) won’t be so hard on her in the long run. As if to symbolically represent the erosion of Emily’s confidence by the job itself, various fluids are squirted onto her attire throughout the play. It is, however Emily’s backstory that later throws everything into perspective, revealing very personal reasons for wanting to make a career in medicine.
Silver’s own experiences as a nurse shine through the writing, as the compassion and empathy for one’s fellow human beings are repeatedly tested by all that is unfair in the world.
Social media is (rightfully) full of angry comments about government plans to reduce resources which impinge on patient care. After hearing about this for so long, fatigue can set in, dulling the importance of the message. Watching this play brings home why our health service is so precious, as are the staff who work there – not infallible, not superhuman, but selfless people who tap into their ‘better selves’ daily, regardless of how they feel.
© Michael Davis 2017
The Monologues of a Tired Nurse runs at the Barons Court Theatre, London until 26th February 2017.