How do you survive in a hospital if you’re not the patient?
Welcome to A&E. The sketch show produced by Queen Mary Theatre Company, featuring an ensemble group of Zak Chan, Daniella Harrison, Rosie Hodgson, Huw Landauer, Clarice Montero, Shavariya Padayachee and Emily Redpath. They are such a GANG. Like S Club 7 in scrubs, uniform in red socks and white trainers, they bounce around the stage and slapstick-splutter their way through the show.
QMUTC have devised a 45-minute comedic platter of horrible-histories levels of poo-and-blood humour, through a smorgasbord of sketch styles, from silent slapstick to ukulele songs. At the start of the show, I wonder if the show will be as political as its title demands. Audio clips of NHS employees bridge the gap between each sketch, and every comedic scenario exists under the shadow of underfunding and overworking. The joke is never on the employees, but the way they have been failed. The opening song even ends with a cheerful ‘Don’t be a dick to the NHS!’ The company do very well to get the balance just right in finding the humour around, in, and despite of, chronic mess, exhaustion and underfunding.
I really appreciate how the ensemble focus on individual character rather than stereotype, such as the adorable porter with hobnobs played by Rosie Hodgson. The whole ensemble operates (ey, operates) with dignity, humanity, and buckets of charm. Not exempt to this is the actual, physical, mocking presence of death which roams the halls of the hospital. Zak Chan soon becomes my favourite presence on stage. There’s a ‘dancing with death’ scene which I find hilarious, and have no idea why?!
The production features a fair number of one-person scenes such as these, and makes me think that A&E would have worked just as well in a smaller space. Venue 45 is almost cavernous when compared to the minimal set and props, and the cast tend to drift towards the back of the space.
Ultimately though, the humour blends relatability and absurdity with a lot of skill. I have seen some BAD student comedy in the past, but this troupe brings both intelligence and charm to a very appreciative audience.
They see us off with an anagrammatised gem:
‘Ah Hunky Snot’
‘Thank you NHS’
‘Hot Husky Nan’
A&E is on at theSpace @ Venue 45 on the 22nd and 24th August.